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Injury patterns differ with age in male youth football: a four-season prospective study of 1111 time-loss injuries in an elite national academy

Abstract

Objectives To describe age group patterns for injury incidence, severity and burden in elite male youth football.

Methods Prospective cohort study capturing data on individual exposure and time-loss injuries from training and matches over four seasons (2016/2017 through 2019/2020) at a national football academy (U13–U18; age range: 11–18 years). Injury incidence was calculated as the number of injuries per 1000 hours, injury severity as the median number of days lost and injury burden as the number of days lost per 1000 hours.

Results We included 301 players (591 player-seasons) and recorded 1111 time-loss injuries. Overall incidence was 12.0 per 1000 hours (95% CI 11.3 to 12.7) and burden was 255 days lost per 1000 hours (252 to 259). The mean incidence for overall injuries was higher in the older age groups (7.8 to 18.6 injuries per 1000 hours), while the greatest burden was observed in the U16 age group (425 days; 415 to 435). In older age groups, incidence and burden were higher for muscle injuries and lower for physis injuries. Incidence of joint sprains and bone stress injuries was greatest for players in the U16, U17 and U18 age groups, with the largest burden observed for U16 players. No clear age group trend was observed for fractures.

Conclusion Injury patterns differed with age; tailoring prevention programmes may be possible.

  • soccer
  • epidemiology
  • adolescent
  • sports medicine
  • paediatrics

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