Professional football players are far more likely to get injured in competition than during training sessions, according to a new study.
Researchers in Spain and the UK found that the risk of injury during competition matches is 12 times higher than during training sessions.
For the study, researchers at the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón, the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the University of Exeter analysed the characteristics of injuries to 728 professional footballers during an entire season. The players came from 16 first division teams and 11 second division teams in Spain.
The most common injuries were muscular injuries and those resulting from over-exertion, requiring recovery periods of around one week.
Almost 90% of injuries occurred in the lower limbs, and the primary cause was over-exertion. Looking at specific types of injury, the most common ones were muscle and tendon, which were registered in half of all cases.
According to Diego Moliner, director of the research group LIFE at the Universitat Jaume I, a total of 1,293 injuries were recorded in the first division and 891 in the second division. The overall incidence of injury among professional players from either first or second division was 5.6 injuries per thousand hours of exposure.
“But the most significant is that in the case of the competition the number of injuries per thousand hours of practice was 41.7 versus 3.6 produced per thousand hours of training, which means that the risk of injury is almost 12 times higher during a competitive match,” Moliner said.
Injuries during training sessions were more likely to occur during the pre-season, with the incidence declining during the competitive season. Conversely, the incidence of injuries during competition matches increased throughout the season.
The study authors highlighted the need for injury prevention protocols to reduce the number of overuse injuries in the muscles and tendons in the lower limbs. And they said that special attention should be paid during the pre-season and the last four months of the season in order to prevent training and competition injuries, respectively.
The findings of the research have been published in the scientific journals Sports Sci and Sports Med Phys Fitness.