Many injuries in elite soccer can be prevented

Injuries are common among soccer players, but many of these injuries can be avoided, according to a new doctoral dissertation from Linkping University in Sweden.

A collaborative project between the European Football Association (UEFA) and Linkping University has studied the risk of injury for elite soccer players in Sweden and Denmark in a series of investigations between 2001 and 2005. Martin Hgglund, a doctoral student and physical therapist at the Division of Social Medicine and Public Health Scince, has followed the clubs in the Swedish premier league, the Allsvenska, for several seasons. He has also reviewed the risk of injury in the Danish SAS League and the Womens Allsvenska.

The studies show that the risk of injury among elite soccer players is great: roughly three out of four male players and two out of three female players incur injuries during a season. Pulled hamstring muscles are the most frequent injuries, followed by groin injuries, and sprained knees and ankles. However, contrary to common beliefs, the risk of injury has not increased in the past 20 years. A comparison between the Allsvenska seasons 1982 and 2001 shows that the both risk of injury and the severity of injuries have remained unchanged.

The risk of injury in the Allsvenska League is lower than in neighboring Denmark. Players in the SAS League had more training injuries during the spring season and more serious injuries than their Swedish colleagues. Differences in the structure of the seasons and in training may be a contributing factor.

Among women, the risk of injury is lower than among men, according to a comparison between the Allsvenska and the Womens Allsvenska season 2005. On the other hand, the risk of suffering a serious injury (absence of more than 4 weeks) is equally large for women and men. The most common serious injury is sprained knees, which account for roughly one third of all absences due to injuries.

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Contact: ke Hjelm
Swedish Research Council

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