Football players are sportsmen most at risk of injury

April 20, 2005

Football players are far more likely to have injuries than other athletes including swimmers, tennis players and gymnasts, according to research published this week in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

A study into injuries of people with long term sport involvement found significantly more soccer players (63.3%) sustained sports injuries than others and swimmers had relatively few injuries (28.1%).

The UK researchers carried out an initial Training of Young Athletes Study (TOYA) between 1987 and 1992, recruiting 453 participants aged between 8 and 16. The study showed a low prevalence of sports injuries over a three year period, but the authors decided to revisit the group 10 years later to see if the effects of training manifested themselves later in life.

They got responses from 203 people (male and female) to a questionnaire. These were made up of 52 gymnasts, 22 soccer players, 57 swimmers, and 72 tennis players who were asked about musculoskeletal problems that had reduced or interrupted their sports activity for any length of time.

More than half of that group (109) were still involved in their sport of choice. Of the 94 who were not, about half said pressures related to school, university or work had caused them to drop out and 15 said they had left because of injury.

Between 1990 and 2000, almost two thirds (63.6%) of the soccer players had sustained an injury compared to just 28.1% of swimmers

The study also found that tennis players had significantly more upper-limb injuries while soccer players had more lower-limb injuries and gymnasts had more back injuries.

Just eight of the 109 sports participants were competing at international level, six at national level, 25 at regional/county level while the remainder called themselves 'recreational athletes'.

The level of injury was highest for those competing at international level - 87.5% - followed by 64% of those competing at regional/county level.

The authors say: 'Elite young sport performers who continued to train are at a greater risk of musculoskeletal injury than those who did not. The injuries sustained, though not serious, may interfere with the sporting career of an elite young athlete.'

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