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Prevalence of headache in Australian footballers
  1. P McCrory,
  2. J Heywood,
  3. C Coffey
  1. CHESM/School of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Paul McCrory
 CHESM/School of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia;


Objective: To survey the prevalence and risk factors for headache in a population of elite professional Australian footballers.

Methods: A prospective questionnaire based survey was performed on elite Australian footballers participating in a national competition. The survey was designed to assess the prevalence and risk factors for headache using standardised International Headache Society (HIS) criteria. Headache prevalence was compared with that of an age and sex matched community control population.

Results: A total of 160 questionnaires were analysed. Headaches were reported by 80% of subjects, with 49% of respondents reporting headaches during competitive match play and 60% during training. There was no significant difference between the footballers and the community sample in the number of headaches ever; however, they did report more headaches in the three months before the survey —that is, during the competitive playing season. In the footballers, 22% of headaches conformed to the strict IHS definition of migraine headaches. When the relaxed definition of “footballer’s migraine” was used, 34% of headaches met these criteria. Footballers were at significantly increased risk of footballer’s migraine than community controls.

Conclusions: Headaches are common in Australian footballers, and the prevalence of migraine is increased in relation to community prevalence studies. Furthermore, the strict IHS criteria may not adequately identify the specific subtype of football related headache. This finding has important implications in the management of headache in this setting.

  • Australian football
  • concussion
  • football
  • headache
  • migraine

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  • Competing interests: none declared

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