Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to investigate the effect of exercise-based programmes in the prevention of non-contact musculoskeletal injuries among football players in comparison to a control group.
Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.
Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, CINAHL, PEDro and SPORTDiscus databases were searched from the earliest record to January 2021.
Eligibility criteria: Studies were eligible if they (1) included football players aged 13 years or older, (2) used exercise-based programmes as intervention, (3) presented the number of non-contact musculoskeletal injuries (ie, defined as any acute sudden onset musculoskeletal injury that occurred without physical contact) and exposure hours for each group, and (4) had a control group (eg, usual training, minimal intervention, education). All types of exercise-based prevention programmes were eligible for inclusion. Risk of bias for each included study and overall quality of evidence for the meta-analysis were assessed.
Results: Ten original randomised controlled trials with 13 355 football players and 1 062 711 hours of exposure were selected. Pooled injury risk ratio showed very low-quality evidence that exercise-based prevention programmes reduced the risk of non-contact musculoskeletal injuries by 23% (0.77 (95% CI 0.61 to 0.97)) compared with a control group.
Conclusion: Exercise-based prevention programmes may reduce the risk of non-contact musculoskeletal injuries by 23% among football players. Future high-quality trials are still needed to clarify the role of exercise-based programmes in preventing non-contact musculoskeletal injuries among football players.
Prospero registration number: CRD42020173017.
Keywords: exercise; football; injury prevention; soccer; sporting injuries.
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