Football injuries in children and adolescent players: are there clues for prevention?

Sports Med. 2013 Sep;43(9):819-37. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0061-x.


Football (soccer) is the world's most popular sport with most players being younger than 18 years. Playing football can induce beneficial health effects, but there is also a high risk of injury. Therefore, it is necessary to implement measures for preventing injuries. The present review analyzes and summarizes published scientific information on the incidence and characteristics of football injuries in children and adolescent players to arrive at sound conclusions and valid considerations for the development of injury-prevention programs. A literature search was conducted up to November 2012. Fifty-three relevant scientific publications were detected. Thirty-two studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria for pooled analysis. Additional information from the remaining 21 studies was considered where appropriate to obtain a broader perspective on the injury problem in children and youth football. Training injury incidence was nearly constant for players aged 13-19 years, ranging from 1 to 5 injuries per 1,000 h training. Match injury incidence tended to increase with age through all age groups, with an average incidence of about 15 to 20 injuries per 1,000 match hours in players older than 15 years. Between 60 and 90 % of all football injuries were classified as traumatic and about 10-40 % were overuse injuries. Most injuries (60-90 %) were located at the lower extremities with the ankle, knee, and thigh being mostly affected. The frequency of upper-extremity and head/face injuries was higher in those studies that analyzed match injuries only. The most common injury types were strains, sprains, and contusions (10 up to 40 % each). There is some evidence that the risk of traumatic injuries and, in particular, of sustaining a fracture, contusion, or concussion was higher during match play than in practice sessions. Fractures were more frequent in children younger than 15 years than in older players. About half of all time-loss injuries led to an absence from sport of less than 1 week, one third resulted in an absence between 1 and 4 weeks, and 10 to 15 % of all injuries were severe. Separate data for players under the age of 11 years are almost absent. Maturation status seems to have an influence on injury characteristics, although evidence is not conclusive at this time. Three main areas seem to be of particular relevance for future prevention research in young football players: (1) the substantial number of severe contact injuries during matches, (2) the high number of fractures in younger players, and (3) the influence of maturation status and growth spurts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology
  • Facial Injuries / epidemiology
  • Facial Injuries / etiology
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lower Extremity / injuries
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Upper Extremity / injuries