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UEFA Champions League study: a prospective study of injuries in professional football during the 2001–2002 season
  1. M Waldén,
  2. M Hägglund,
  3. J Ekstrand
  1. Department of Health and Society, Linköping University, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Waldén
 Department of Health and Society, Linköping University, S-581 83 Linköping, Sweden;


Background: No previous study on adult football involving several different countries has investigated the incidence and pattern of injuries at the highest club competitive level.

Objective: To investigate the risk exposure, risk of injury, and injury pattern of footballers involved in UEFA Champions League and international matches during a full football season.

Method: Eleven top clubs (266 players) in five European countries were followed prospectively throughout the season of 2001–2002. Time-lost injuries and individual exposure times were recorded during all club and national team training sessions and matches.

Results: A total of 658 injuries were recorded. The mean (SD) injury incidence was 9.4 (3.2) injuries per 1000 hours (30.5 (11.0) injuries per 1000 match hours and 5.8 (2.1) injuries per 1000 training hours). The risk of match injury was significantly higher in the English and Dutch teams than in the teams from France, Italy, and Spain (41.8 (3.3) v 24.0 (7.9) injuries per 1000 hours; p  =  0.008). Major injuries (absence >4 weeks) constituted 15% of all injuries, and the risk of major injury was also significantly higher among the English and Dutch teams (p  =  0.04). National team players had a higher match exposure, with a tendency towards a lower training injury incidence than the rest of the players (p  =  0.051). Thigh strain was the most common injury (16%), with posterior strains being significantly more common than anterior ones (67 v 36; p<0.0001).

Conclusions: The risk of injury in European professional football is high. The most common injury is the thigh strain typically involving the hamstrings. The results suggest that regional differences may influence injury epidemiology and traumatology, but the factors involved are unclear. National team players have a higher match exposure, but no higher risk of injury than other top level players.

  • elite
  • epidemiology
  • injury incidence
  • professional
  • football
  • soccer

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  • Competing interests: none declared