Background: Few studies have examined the physiology, training and more recently injury profile of the soccer referee, and these have involved almost exclusively male referees.
Purpose: To analyse the frequency and characteristics of injuries and musculoskeletal problems in female referees selected for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007.
Study design: Retrospective and prospective descriptive epidemiological study.
Methods: During the preparation camps a few months before the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007, all 81 preselected female referees completed a questionnaire on injuries and musculoskeletal problems. During the final 32 matches of the tournament in China, all injuries, musculoskeletal problems and related treatment of the 36 officiating referees were documented.
Results: Almost 50% of the referees reported having incurred at least one injury during their career that had led to time loss from the game. In the previous 12 months, 13 (16%) referees reported having sustained an injury and 64 (79%) reported musculoskeletal problems related to refereeing. During the World Cup and 14 (39%) referees incurred an injury and 17 (33%) were treated for musculoskeletal problems. The commonest location of injuries and problems were hamstrings, quadriceps, calf and ankle. The prospectively collected data found an incidence of 34.7 match injuries per 1000 match hours (95% CI 4.2 to 65.1).
Conclusion: Top-level female referees are exposed to an even greater risk of injury and/or musculoskeletal problems related to officiating than are male referees. Considering the growth of women’s soccer, injury prevention programmes should be specifically developed for female referees.
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