Objectives: To conduct a detailed analysis of preseason football injuries sustained in English professional football over two competitive seasons.
Methods: Club medical staff at 91 professional football clubs annotated player injuries. A specific injury audit questionnaire was used together with a weekly form that documented each club’s current injury status.
Results: 17% (1025) of the total number of injuries over the two seasons were sustained during the preseason, the mean number of days absent per injury was 22.3 days. Younger age groups (17–25 yrs) were more likely to sustain a preseason injury than more experienced players (26–35+) (p<0.01). There were relatively more “slight” and “minor” injuries (as defined in the methodology), overuse, and tendon related injuries sustained during preseason compared to the in season (p<0.01). The thigh (23%), knee (17%), and ankle (17%) were the most common locations for injuries during the preseason, there was a relatively greater number of lower leg injuries (15%) during the preseason (p<0.05). Achilles tendonitis was most prevalent in the preseason, with 33% of all Achilles related injuries sustained during this period (p<0.01). Muscle strains were the most common injury during preseason (37%). Rectus femoris muscle strains were observed twice as frequently during the preseason relative to the in season (p<0.01). Ligament sprains were the second most common injury during preseason (19%). Non-contact mechanisms were the cause of significantly more injuries during the preseason (p<0.01), with relatively more preseason injuries sustained while running or shooting (p<0.01). For 70% of the injuries reported during the preseason, the ground condition was described as dry.
Conclusions: Players are at a greater risk of slight and minor injuries, overuse injuries, lower leg injuries (especially the Achilles tendon) and rectus femoris strains during the preseason period. Prevention of preseason injury is important to ensure availability of players for the commencement of the season and to decrease the risk of injury later in the season, we recommend the implementation of a risk management policy for this purpose. Areas requiring further investigation include methods of prevention for the common preseason injuries that have been identified, a detailed analysis of preseason and closed season training programmes, and a smaller study involving exposure data.
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