Background The incidence and characteristics of football injuries during matches in top-level international tournaments are well documented, but training injuries and illnesses during this period have rarely been studied.
Aim To analyse the incidence and characteristics of injuries and illnesses incurred during the 2010 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup.
Methods The chief physicians of the 32 finalist teams reported daily all newly incurred injuries and illnesses of their players on a standardised medical report form.
Results Out of 229 injuries reported, 82 match and 58 training injuries were expected to result in time loss, equivalent to an incidence of 40.1 match and 4.4 training injuries per 1000 h. Contact with another player was the most frequent cause of match (65%) and of training (40%) injuries. The most frequent diagnoses were thigh strain and ankle sprain. 99 illnesses of 89 (12%) players were reported. Illnesses were mainly infections of the respiratory or the digestive system. Most illnesses did not result in absence from training or match. The incidence of time-loss illnesses was 3.0 per 1000 player days.
Conclusion The incidence of match injuries during the 2010 FIFA World Cup was significantly lower than in the three proceeding World Cups. This might be a result of more regard to injury prevention, less foul play and stricter refereeing. Tackling skills and fair play need to be improved to prevent contact injuries in training and matches. Prevention of illness should focus on reducing the risk of infections by considering the common modes of transmission and environmental conditions.
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Funding This study was funded by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Zurich, Switzerland.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Research Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town (ref. no. REC 159/2009).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.