Illness and injuries in elite football players--a prospective cohort study during the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009

Clin J Sport Med. 2013 Sep;23(5):379-83. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31828b0a10.


Objective: The incidence of injury during elite-level football tournaments has been well documented, but the incidence of illness and medical conditions has not been well studied. The main objective was to analyze the incidence and nature of medical illnesses and injuries in football players.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: 2009 Fédération Internationale de Football Association Confederations Cup soccer tournament.

Participants: One hundred eighty-four soccer players (8 teams of 23 players).

Main outcome measures: Incidence (per 1000 player days) of illnesses and injuries. Each team physician was requested to complete a daily report of injury (match and training) and medical illness of their players during the tournament (2070 player days). A total of 63 daily reports were obtained (70% response rate).

Results: A total of 56 injuries and 35 illness incidents were recorded, resulting in an overall rate of 16.9 illnesses per 1000 player days and 27.0 injuries (match and training) per 1000 player days. The overall injury rate was 64.4 per 1000 match hours or 2.1 per match. About 0.88 days were lost per injury, and 0.46 days were lost per illness. Thirteen (37%) illnesses were because of conditions of the ear, nose, and throat, and 7 (20%) illnesses were because of other respiratory tract symptoms. The lower limb was the most commonly injured body part, with thigh (20%) being the most frequent location, and contusion (44%) the most frequent type of injury.

Conclusions: Illnesses are as common but less severe compared with match and training injuries during an international football tournament. Illnesses comprise an important component in the day-to-day medical care of a traveling football team. Medical illness therefore needs to be considered by the team physicians when planning for and managing the medical needs of elite football teams.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • South Africa / epidemiology