Injuries are common in football, and FIFA, UEFA and national football organisations are all concerned about the safety of players. In 2001, UEFA initiated a research programme with the aim of increasing the safety of players in its competitions and contributing to the wider understanding of injury in sport. This project, the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study, has now been conducted with elite clubs in the UEFA Champions League and beyond for over a decade with results regularly published in scientific journals such as the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The aims of the Elite Club Injury Study are as follows:
• To evaluate the injury risk and circumstances of injury, considering exposure during training sessions and matches
• To analyse injury patterns and injury severity
• To compare injury risk and injury patterns with previous years of the study
• To contribute to the existing UEFA injury study database, and to monitor trends in injury risk and injury pattern over time
One of the initial goals of the research programme was to monitor the increasing load on professional football players and to evaluate the correlation between this increasing load and injuries. In other words, to study the possible effects of 'over-playing'. This aim has remained, however the study has since covered a wide range of research topics such as the effects of playing on artificial turf v grass, the occasions during a 90-minute match when certain injuries are more likely to occur, and whether injury risks for players are higher at certain points of the season.
At the start of the 2014/15 season, 36 clubs were participating in the study and all but four of the teams who have reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League since season 2001/02 have been submitting data to the study, making it a true elite sport scientific study.
Data collection is performed using standardised forms with all participating clubs required to submit training and match injury data every three days to the Sweden-based Football Research Group, headed by renowned injury expert and vice-chairman of the UEFA medical committee Professor Jan Ekstrand.
Injury is defined as any physical damage that occurs during football activities (scheduled matches or training sessions) which results in the player being unable to participate fully in future training sessions or matches.
All participating clubs receive a mid-season and end-of-season report showing injury trends during the season and compared to previous seasons, and also showing their injury records in comparison to other teams in the study (listed anonymously). This allows clubs to review their own performance and to make adjustments where required. Also useful in this area is a 'pursuit of excellence' summary sent to all clubs where tips and techniques are shared to try and further overall knowledge within the game.
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