Shoulder and elbow injuries in soccer goalkeepers versus field players in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2009-2010 through 2013-2014

Phys Sportsmed. 2018 Sep;46(3):304-311. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2018.1462083. Epub 2018 Apr 19.


Objectives: Examination of the incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries in the collegiate soccer player population is limited, as is comparison between goalkeepers and field players. We hypothesized that goalkeepers would have a higher incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries than field players. Furthermore, we sought to determine the incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) soccer players, and to determine injury risk factors.

Methods: The NCAA Injury Surveillance Program database was analyzed for injuries to NCAA men's and women's soccer players during the 2009-2010 through 2013-2014 academic years. The incidence of injury was calculated per 10,000 athletic exposures (AE) for goalkeepers versus field players, activity, and injury characteristics, and compared using univariate analysis and risk-ratios to determine injury risk factors.

Results: While the overall incidence of shoulder and elbow injuries in soccer players was 2.7/10,000AE [95% CI 2.62-2.78], the incidence among goalkeepers was 4.6-fold higher (8.3 vs. 1.8/10,000AE, p < 0.0001). Goalkeepers had significantly higher incidences of injury in practice (21.3-fold) and in the preseason (16.1-fold) than field players. Women goalkeepers were disproportionately affected, with injury incidences 7.7-fold higher than women field players, and 1.9-fold higher than male goalkeepers. Acromioclavicular joint injuries, rotator cuff tears/sprains, and elbow and shoulder instability constituted the majority of the goalkeeper injuries.

Conclusions: Shoulder and elbow injuries in NCAA soccer players are significantly more common in goalkeepers than field players. Incidence varies widely by position and injury, with a number of associated risk factors. Soccer players sustaining these injuries, along with their coaches and medical providers, may benefit from this injury data to best manage expectations and outcomes. Soccer governing bodies may use this to track injury incidence and response to preventative measures.

Keywords: Soccer; database; elbow injury; epidemiology; football; shoulder injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acromioclavicular Joint / injuries
  • Arm Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Elbow Injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Sprains and Strains / epidemiology
  • Students
  • Universities