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Neurosurg Focus. 2011 Nov;31(5):E1. doi: 10.3171/2011.10.FOCUS11184.

Mechanisms and consequences of head injuries in soccer: a study of 451 patients.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany.



The goal of this study was to evaluate the incidence and mechanisms of head injury during soccer games and to describe the results after spontaneous resolution of symptoms or after treatment.


In a retrospective study from 2005, records on 451 players from the German Soccer Association who had suffered various injuries were collected. The study used a questionnaire in which the player described the accident and the playing situation as well as the clinical course after trauma. This questionnaire also included information about the physical symptoms of the players and the length of their rehabilitation. Two groups were formed: one with head injuries (case group), and the other with injuries of other body parts (control group).


Of the injuries reported, 108 (23.9%) were related to the head, 114 (25.3%) to the knee, 58 (13%) to the ankle, 56 (12%) to the calf, and 30 (7%) to the shoulder. The areas of the head most frequently involved were the facial and occipital regions. In the head injury group, the head duel was the most common playing action to lead to trauma. In those cases, the body part that hit the injured player was the elbow, arm, or head of the opponent. The most common playing situation was combat in the penalty area. The median hospitalization time after the trauma was 2 days for the case group and 5 days for the control group. The rehabilitation time for the case group was also shorter (median 6.5 days) than for the control group (median 30 days).


Trivial head injuries in soccer can have a long and complicated course. Nevertheless, the temporary disability is shorter in most cases than for players with injuries to other parts of the body. Modifying the rules of play would be necessary to reduce the incidence of head trauma.

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