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A six year prospective study of the incidence and causes of head and neck injuries in international football
  1. C W Fuller1,
  2. A Junge2,
  3. J Dvorak2
  1. 1University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  2. 2Schulthess Clinic, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to:
 C W Fuller
 University of Leicester, Scarman Centre, Leicester, UK;


Objective: To identify those risk factors that have the greatest impact on the incidence of head and neck injuries in international football.

Method: A case–control study of players sustaining head and neck injuries during 20 FIFA tournaments (men and women) from 1998 to 2004. Video recordings of incidents were used to identify a range of parameters associated with the incidents. Team physicians provided medical reports describing the nature of each injury. χ2 tests (p⩽0.01) and 95% confidence intervals were used to assess differences in distribution and incidence of injury, respectively.

Results: In total, 248 head and neck injuries were recorded of which 163 were identified and analysed on video sequences. The commonest injuries were contusions (53%), lacerations (20%), and concussions (11%). The incidence of all head and neck injuries was 12.5/1000 player hours (men 12.8, women 11.5) and 3.7 for lost-time injuries (men 3.5, women 4.1). The commonest causes of injury involved aerial challenges (55%) and the use of the upper extremity (33%) or head (30%). The unfair use of the upper extremity was significantly more likely to cause an injury than any other player action. Only one injury (a neck muscle strain) occurred as a result of heading the ball throughout the 20 tournaments equivalent to 0.05 injuries/1000 player hours.

Conclusions: Players’ actions most likely to cause a head or neck injury were the use of the upper extremity or the head but in the majority of cases these challenges were deemed to be fair and within the laws of the game.

  • risk factors
  • injury causation
  • concussion

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  • Competing interests: none declared