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Is there a correlation between coaches’ leadership styles and injuries in elite football teams? A study of 36 elite teams in 17 countries
  1. Jan Ekstrand1,2,
  2. Daniel Lundqvist1,3,
  3. Lars Lagerbäck2,
  4. Marc Vouillamoz4,
  5. Niki Papadimitiou4,
  6. Jon Karlsson2,5
  1. 1 Division of Community Medicine, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linkoping University, Linkoping, Sweden
  2. 2 Football Research Group, Linköping University, Linkoping, Sweden
  3. 3 Division of Education and Sociology, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linkoping University, Linkoping, Sweden
  4. 4 UEFA, Nyon, Switzerland
  5. 5 Department of Orthopaedics, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jan Ekstrand, Health University, Hertig Karlsgatan 13BS-582 21, Linköping, Sweden; jan.ekstrand{at}


Background Do coaches’ leadership styles affect injury rates and the availability of players in professional football? Certain types of leadership behaviour may cause stress and have a negative impact on players’ health and well-being.

Aim To investigate the transformational leadership styles of head coaches in elite men’s football and to evaluate the correlation between leadership styles, injury rates and players’ availability.

Methods Medical staff from 36 elite football clubs in 17 European countries produced 77 reports at four postseason meetings with a view to assessing their perception of the type of leadership exhibited by the head coaches of their respective teams using the Global Transformational Leadership scale. At the same time, they also recorded details of individual players’ exposure to football and time-loss injuries.

Results There was a negative correlation between the overall level of transformational leadership and the incidence of severe injuries (rho=−0.248; n=77; p=0.030); high levels of transformational leadership were associated with smaller numbers of severe injuries. Global Transformational Leadership only explained 6% of variation in the incidence of severe injuries (r2=0.062). The incidence of severe injuries was lower at clubs where coaches communicated a clear and positive vision, supported staff members and gave players encouragement and recognition. Players’ attendance rates at training were higher in teams where coaches gave encouragement and recognition to staff members, encouraged innovative thinking, fostered trust and cooperation and acted as role models.

Conclusions There is an association between injury rates and players’ availability and the leadership style of the head coach.

  • soccer
  • injury
  • football
  • behaviour
  • psychology

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  • Contributors JE and DL were responsible for the conception and design of the study. JE, MV and NP were involved in data collection over the study period. JE conducted the analyses together with the biostatistician, HM. All authors contributed to interpretation of the findings. JE wrote the first draft of the paper, which was critically revised by DL, MV, NP, LL and JK. The final manuscript was approved by all authors. JE is the study guarantor.

  • Funding The Football Research Group was established in Linkoping, Sweden, in cooperation with Linkoping University, using grants from UEFA, the Swedish Football Association and the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The design of this study was approved by the UEFA Medical Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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