Head and neck injuries in professional soccer

Clin J Sport Med. 2013 Jul;23(4):255-60. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31827ee6f8.


Objective: To investigate the rate of and risk factors for head and neck injury in male soccer.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Professional soccer.

Participants: Twenty-six European teams between 2001/2002 and 2009/2010.

Assessment of risk factors: Simple and multiple risk factor analyses were evaluated using Cox regression for player-related variables and logistic regression for match-related variables.

Main outcome measures: Injury rate (number of time loss injuries per 1000 hours).

Results: A total of 136 head and neck injuries were recorded (2.2% of all injuries). The head and neck injury rate was 0.17 (0.06 concussions) per 1000 hours. There was a 20-fold higher rate of head and neck injury during match play compared with training (rate ratio [RR], 20.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 13.3-30.6) and a 78-fold higher rate of concussions (RR, 78.5; 95% CI, 24.4-252.5). Mean layoff for concussion was 10.5 days, but 27% of the concussed players returned to play within 5 days. Defender was the only significant player-related risk factor for head and neck injuries in the multiple analysis (RR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.0-3.1), whereas no significant variables were identified for concussions.

Conclusions: Head and neck injuries were relatively uncommon in professional soccer. Defender was the playing position most at risk. More than one-quarter of the concussed players returned to play before what is recommended in the consensus statements by the major sports governing bodies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neck Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Soccer / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Young Adult