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Role of illness in male professional football: not a major contributor to time loss
  1. John Bjørneboe1,
  2. Karolina Kristenson2,3,
  3. Markus Waldén2,3,
  4. Håkan Bengtsson2,4,
  5. Jan Ekstrand2,3,
  6. Martin Hägglund2,4,
  7. Ola Rønsen5,
  8. Thor Einar Andersen1
  1. 1Department of Sports Medicine, Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Football Research Group, Linköping University, Sweden
  3. 3Division of Community Medicine, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  4. 4Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  5. 5Aker Solutions, Fornebu, Norway
  1. Correspondence to John Bjørneboe, Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, PO Box 4014, Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo 0806, Norway; john.bjorneboe{at}nih.no

Abstract

Background There are limited data on the nature, type and incidence of illness in football. Previous studies indicate that gastrointestinal and respiratory tract illnesses are most common.

Aim To describe the incidence and burden of illness in male professional football.

Methods Over the 4-year study period, 2011–2014, 73 professional football teams in Europe participated, with a total of 1 261 367 player-days recorded. All time-loss illnesses were recorded by the medical staff of each club. A recordable illness episode was any physical or psychological symptom (not related to injury) that resulted in the player being unable to participate fully in training or match play.

Results A total of 1914 illness episodes were recorded. The illness incidence was 1.5 per 1000 player-days, meaning that, on average, a player experienced an illness episode every second season, with a median of 3 days absence per illness episode. Severe illness (absence >4 weeks) constituted 2% of all illnesses. Respiratory tract illness was the most common (58%), followed by gastrointestinal illness (38%). Respiratory tract illness, gastrointestinal illness and cardiovascular illness caused the highest illness burden.

Conclusions The illness incidence among male professional football players is low compared with the injury incidence. We found that the highest illness burden was caused by illness to the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system.

  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Illness
  • Epidemiology

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