Objective: To study the injury characteristics in professional football and to follow the variation of injury incidence during a match, during a season and over consecutive seasons.
Design: Prospective cohort study where teams were followed for seven consecutive seasons. Team medical staff recorded individual player exposure and time-loss injuries from 2001 to 2008.
Setting: European professional men’s football.
Participants: The first team squads of 23 teams selected by UEFA as belonging to the 50 best European teams.
Main outcome measurement: Injury incidence.
Results: 4,483 injuries occurred during 566,000 hours of exposure, giving an injury incidence of 8.0 injuries/1,000 hours. The injury incidence during matches was higher than in training (27.5 v 4.1, p<0.0001). A player sustained on average 2.0 injuries per season and a team with typically 25 players can thus expect about 50 injuries each season. The single most common injury subtype was thigh strain, representing 17% of all injuries. Re-injuries constituted 12% of all injuries and they caused longer absences than non re-injuries (24 v 18 days, p<0.0001). The incidence of match injuries showed an increasing injury tendency over time in both the first and second halves (p<0.0001). Traumatic injuries and hamstring strains were more frequent during the competitive season, while overuse injuries were common during the pre-season. Training and match injury incidences were stable over the period with no significant differences between seasons.
Conclusions: The training and match injury incidences were stable over seven seasons. The risk of injury increased with time in each half of matches.
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