Background Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury is the most common knee ligament injury in professional football.
Aim To investigate the rate and circumstances of MCL injuries and development over the past decade.
Methods Prospective cohort study, in which 27 professional European teams were followed over 11 seasons (2001/2002 to 2011/2012). Team medical staffs recorded player exposure and time loss injuries. MCL injuries were classified into four severity categories. Injury rate was defined as the number of injuries per 1000 player-hours.
Results 346 MCL injuries occurred during 1 057 201 h (rate 0.33/1000 h). The match injury rate was nine times higher than the training injury rate (1.31 vs 0.14/1000 h, rate ratio 9.3, 95% CI 7.5 to 11.6, p<0.001). There was a significant average annual decrease of approximately 7% (p=0.023). The average lay-off was 23 days, and there was no difference in median lay-off between index injuries and reinjuries (18 vs 13, p=0.20). Almost 70% of all MCL injuries were contact-related, and there was no difference in median lay-off between contact and non-contact injuries (16 vs 16, p=0.74).
Conclusions This largest series of MCL injuries in professional football suggests that the time loss from football for MCL injury is 23 days. Also, the MCL injury rate decreased significantly during the 11-year study period.
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