Background International sports bodies should protect the health of their athletes, and injury surveillance is an important pre-requisite for injury prevention. The Fédération International de Football Association (FIFA) has systematically surveyed all football injuries in their tournaments since 1998.
Aims Analysis of the incidence, characteristics and changes of football injury during international top-level tournaments 1998–2012.
Methods All newly incurred football injuries during the FIFA tournaments and the Olympic Games were reported by the team physicians on a standardised injury report form after each match. The average response rate was 92%.
Results A total of 3944 injuries were reported from 1546 matches, equivalent to 2.6 injuries per match. The majority of injuries (80%) was caused by contact with another player, compared with 47% of contact injuries by foul play. The most frequently injured body parts were the ankle (19%), lower leg (16%) and head/neck (15%). Contusions (55%) were the most common type of injury, followed by sprains (17%) and strains (10%). On average, 1.1 injuries per match were expected to result in absence from a match or training. The incidence of time-loss injuries was highest in the FIFA World Cups and lowest in the FIFA U17 Women's World Cups. The injury rates in the various types of FIFA World Cups had different trends over the past 14 years.
Conclusions Changes in the incidence of injuries in top-level tournaments might be influenced by the playing style, refereeing, extent and intensity of match play. Strict application of the Laws of the Games is an important means of injury prevention.
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