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Time before return to play for the most common injuries in professional football: a 16-year follow-up of the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study
  1. Jan Ekstrand1,2,
  2. Werner Krutsch3,
  3. Armin Spreco4,
  4. Wart van Zoest5,
  5. Craig Roberts6,
  6. Tim Meyer7,
  7. Håkan Bengtsson1
  1. 1 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  2. 2 Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Ad Dawhah, Qatar
  3. 3 Department of Trauma Surgery, Universitatsklinikum Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
  4. 4 Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Athletics Research Centre, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
  5. 5 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, St Anna Hospital, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  6. 6 AFC Bournemouth, Bournemouth, Bournemouth, UK
  7. 7 Institute of Sports and Preventive Medicine, University of Saarland, Saarbrücken, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jan Ekstrand, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping S-582 21, Sweden; jan.ekstrand{at}


Objectives The objective was to describe the typical duration of absence following the most common injury diagnoses in professional football.

Methods Injuries were registered by medical staff members of football clubs participating in the Union of European Football Association Elite Club Injury Study. Duration of absence due to an injury was defined by the number of days that passed between the date of the injury occurrence and the date when the medical team allowed the player to return to full participation. In total, 22 942 injuries registered during 494 team-seasons were included in the study.

Results The 31 most common injury diagnoses constituted a total of 78 % of all reported injuries. Most of these injuries were either mild (leading to a median absence of 7 days or less, 6440 cases = 42%) or moderate (median absence: 7–28 days, 56% = 8518 cases) while only few (2% = 311 cases) were severe (median absence of >28 days). The mean duration of absence from training and competition was significantly different (p < 0.05) between index injuries and re-injuries for six diagnoses (Achilles tendon pain, calf muscle injury, groin adductor pain, hamstring muscle injuries and quadriceps muscle injury) with longer absence following re-injuries for all six diagnoses

Conclusions The majority of all time loss due to injuries in professional football stems from injuries with an individual absence of up to 4 weeks. This article can provide guidelines for expected time away from training and competition for the most common injury types as well as for its realistic range.

  • soccer
  • injuries
  • return to play
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors JE was responsible for the conception and design of the study. JE and AS conducted the analyses which were planned and checked with the remaining authors. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the findings. JE wrote the first draft of the paper which was then critically revised and approved by all authors. JE is the study guarantor.

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

  • Competing interests TM work was partly sponsored by Saarland University and the German Football Association (DFB) via grants for the international PhD programme “Science and Health in Football”.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Written and informed consent was collected from all participating players. The study design was approved by the UEFA Football Development Division and the UEFA Medical Committee.

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

  • Data availability statement No data are available.

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