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High risk of injury in elite soccer

The risk of being injured in today's elite soccer is extremely great.
Especially young women run a great risk of incurring frontal cruciate ligament injuries, according to a new dissertation from Linköping University in Sweden.

A collaborative project involving the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and Linköping University studied the risk of injury among soccer players at the highest national and international level in a series of investigations between 2001 and 2005.

The physician Markus Waldén, a doctoral student at the Section for Social Medicine and Public Health Science, followed the clubs in the Swedish Premier League, Women's Swedish Premier League, and the Champions League, as well as several European Championships for national teams.

The dissertation shows that the risk of injury in elite soccer is high, especially during matches, and is at its highest in national team play. Torn muscles on the back of the thigh are the single most common injury, while the proportion of sprained ankles appears to have declined.

In the 2001-2001 season English and Dutch elite clubs had overall more match injuries and moreover more severe injuries than clubs from France, Italy, and Spain.

A comparison of the European Championships for men in 2004 and for women in 2005 shows that the risk of injury in these tournaments was equally great. However, teams that were eliminated in the group play during the women's EC incurred considerably more match injuries than teams that qualified for the semi-finals.

In Sweden, 15-17 percent of players in the women's All Sweden had experienced injuries to the frontal cruciate ligament at some time in their previous career, compared with only 5-8 percent of men in the men's All Sweden. Women elite players are younger when they injure their frontal cruciate ligament than male players are. An injured frontal cruciate ligament for a player in the All Sweden league entails a 3-4-times greater risk of incurring new knee injuries in the future.

The dissertation Epidemiology of Injuries in Elite Football will be submitted on Friday, May 4, at 1:00 p.m. in the Main Auditorium, House of Health, Campus US, Linköping.

Åke Hjelm | idw
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