Background: Only few studies have examined the physiology, training, and more recently injury profile of the soccer referee, and these have involved almost exclusively male referees.
Purpose: To analyse the frequency and characteristics of injuries and musculoskeletal complaints in female referees selected for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007.
Study design: Retrospective and prospective descriptive epidemiological study.
Methods: During the preparation camps a few months prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007, all pre-selected 81 female referees completed a questionnaire on injuries and musculoskeletal complaints. During the final 32 matches of the tournament in China, all injuries, musculoskeletal complaints and related treatment of the 36 officiating referees were documented.
Results: Almost 50% of the referees reported having incurred at least one injury during their career that had led to time loss from the game. In the previous 12 months, 13 (16%) referees reported having suffered an injury and 64 (79%) reported musculoskeletal complaints related to refereeing. Fourteen referees (39%) incurred an injury during the World Cup, and 17 (33%) were treated for musculoskeletal complaints. The most common location of injuries and complaints were hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and ankle. The prospectively collected data showed an incidence of 34.7 match injuries per 1000 match hours (95% CI: 4.2 to 65.1).
Conclusion: Female top-level referees are exposed to an even greater risk of injury and/or musculoskeletal complaints related to officiating than are male referees. Considering the growth of women’s soccer, injury prevention programs should be specifically developed for female referees.