The purpose of this study was to study the risk for injury and injury pattern in Swedish male elite football and to compare two different injury definitions. A prospective cohort study was conducted during 2001 on all 14 teams (310 players) in the Swedish top division. Injuries and individual exposure were recorded. Injury was defined as time-lost injury (715 injuries) and for comparison as tissue injury (765 injuries). No significant difference in the risk for injury between tissue injuries and time-lost injuries was found during matches (27.2 vs. 25.9 injuries per 1000 match hours, P=0.66) or training sessions (5.7 vs. 5.2 injuries per 1000 training hours, P=0.65). The risk for injury during training was significantly higher during the pre-season compared with the competitive season (P=0.01). Thigh strain was the single most common injury (14%). Knee sprain was the most common major injury (absence >4 weeks). Overuse injuries and re-injuries were frequent and constituted 37% and 22% of all injuries. Re-injuries caused significantly longer absence than their corresponding initial injuries (P=0.02). The risk for re-injury (P=0.02) and overuse injury (P<0.01) was significantly higher during the pre-season compared with the competitive season.