Background: The incidence of lower extremity injuries in female soccer players is high, but the risk factors for injuries are unknown.
Purpose: To investigate risk factors for lower extremity injuries in elite female soccer players.
Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.
Methods: Players in the Norwegian elite female soccer league (N = 12 teams) participated in baseline screening tests before the 2009 competitive soccer season. The screening included tests assessing maximal lower extremity strength, dynamic balance, knee valgus angles in a drop-jump landing, knee joint laxity, generalized joint laxity, and foot pronation. Also included was a questionnaire to collect information on demographic data, elite-level experience, and injury history. Time-loss injuries and exposure in training and matches were recorded prospectively in the subsequent soccer season using weekly text messaging. Players reporting an injury were contacted to collect data regarding injury circumstances. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for ±1 standard deviation of change.
Results: In total, 173 players underwent complete screening tests and registration of injuries and exposure throughout the season. A total of 171 injuries in 107 players (62%) were recorded; ligament and muscle injuries were the most frequent. Multivariate analyses showed that a greater body mass index (BMI) (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.21-1.90; P = .001) was the only factor significantly associated with new lower extremity injuries. A greater BMI was associated with new thigh injuries (OR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.08-2.11; P = .01), a lower knee valgus angle in a drop-jump landing was associated with new ankle injuries (OR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.41-1.00; P = .04), and a previous knee injury was associated with new lower leg and foot injuries (OR, 3.57; 95% CI, 1.27-9.99; P = .02), whereas none of the factors investigated influenced the risk of new knee injuries.
Conclusion: A greater BMI was associated with lower extremity injuries in elite female soccer players.
Clinical relevance: Increased knowledge on risk factors for lower extremity injuries enables more targeted prevention strategies with the aim of reducing injury rates in female soccer players.
Keywords: female; football; injury; risk; screening; soccer.