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Epidemiology of injuries among Italian footballers: the role of the playing field

Abstract

Background Football has a higher injury rate compared with other team sports such as rugby, in terms of two main categories: intrinsic (individual) and extrinsic (environmental) factors. The playing field is an extrinsic risk factor which has been poorly investigated in the literature.

Purpose The aim of our study was to define the incidence and risk factors of injuries in a cohort of footballers comparing the role of three different types of playing field (hard court, natural grass or synthetic grass).

Study design This was a cross sectional prevalence study.

Methods The population comprised footballers recruited by a convenience sample; the instrument used for the survey was an anonymous self-administered questionnaire.

Results 267 football players were enrolled (average age 23.4±4.8 years), of whom 33.7% (n=90/267) played on hard court, 33.0% (n=88/267) on natural grass and 33.3% (n=89/267) on synthetic grass. The overall incidence of injury was 40.1 (95% CI 34.1 to 46.8) ×1000 person-years of training, with higher values for ankle and knee injuries. Ankle injuries (aOR 0.4; P=0.021) were associated with playing on natural grass as a protective factor, while playing on natural grass seemed to be a risk factor for muscular injuries (aOR 2.3; P=0.026).

Conclusion Our study showed a high lifetime prevalence of injury among footballers (57%), in particular among athletes who play and train on a hard court. We have studied a topic poorly investigated previously and provide the opportunity to understand interventions to increase the capacity of stakeholders in preventing injuries.

  • epidemiology
  • playground
  • health education
  • multiple injury
  • burden of disease
  • sports / leisure facility
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