Analysis of Injury Incidences in Male Professional Adult and Elite Youth Soccer Players: A Systematic Review

J Athl Train. 2016 May;51(5):410-24. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-51.6.03. Epub 2016 May 31.


Context: The incidence of injury for elite youth and professional adult soccer players is an important concern, but the risk factors for these groups are different.

Objective: To summarize and compare the injury incidences and injury characteristics of male professional adult and elite youth soccer players.

Data sources: We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science using the search terms elite, international, European, soccer, football, injury, injuries, epidemiology, incidence, prevalence, not female, not American football, and not rugby. We also used the search terms professional for studies on professional adult soccer players and high-level, soccer academy, youth, adolescent, and young for studies on elite youth soccer players.

Study selection: Eligible studies were published in English, had a prospective cohort design, and had a minimum study period of 6 months. To ensure that injury data were assessed in relationship to the athlete's individual exposure, we included only studies that reported on injuries and documented exposure volume.

Data extraction: Two independent reviewers applied the selection criteria and assessed the quality of the studies.

Data synthesis: A total of 676 studies were retrieved from the literature search. Eighteen articles met the inclusion criteria: 6 for elite youth and 12 for professional adult soccer players.

Conclusions: Injury rates were higher for matches than for training for both youth and adult players. Youth players had a higher incidence of training injuries than professionals. Efforts must be made to reduce the overall injury rate in matches. Therefore, preventive interventions, such as adequately enforcing rules and focusing on fair play, must be analyzed and developed to reduce match-related injury incidences. Reducing training injuries should be a particular focus for youth soccer players.

Keywords: injury characteristics; muscles; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data
  • Athletic Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries* / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries* / prevention & control
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Soccer / injuries*