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Br J Sports Med. 2018 Nov 15. pii: bjsports-2018-099506. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099506. [Epub ahead of print]

Elite football teams that do not have a winter break lose on average 303 player-days more per season to injuries than those teams that do: a comparison among 35 professional European teams.

Author information

1
Division of Community Medicine, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
2
Football Research Group, Linköping, Sweden.
3
Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar.
4
Region Östergötland, Center for Health Services Development, Linköping, Sweden.
5
Isokinetic Medical Group, FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, London, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To compare injury rates among professional men's football teams that have a winter break in their league season schedule with corresponding rates in teams that do not.

METHODS:

56 football teams from 15 European countries were prospectively followed for seven seasons (2010/2011-2016/2017)-a total of 155 team-seasons. Individual training, match exposure and time-loss injuries were registered. Four different injury rates were analysed over four periods within the season, and linear regression was performed on team-level data to analyse the effect of winter break on each of the injury rates. Crude analyses and analyses adjusted for climatic region were performed.

RESULTS:

9660 injuries were reported during 1 447 011 exposure hours. English teams had no winter break scheduled in the season calendar: the other European teams had a mean winter break scheduled for 10.0 days. Teams without a winter break lost on average 303 days more per season due to injuries than teams with a winter break during the whole season (p<0.001). The results were similar across the three periods August-December (p=0.013), January-March (p<0.001) and April-May (p=0.050). Teams without a winter break also had a higher incidence of severe injuries than teams with a winter break during the whole season (2.1 severe injuries more per season for teams without a winter break, p=0.002), as well as during the period January-March (p=0.003). A winter break was not associated with higher team training attendance or team match availability. Climatic region was also associated with injury rates.

CONCLUSIONS:

The absence of a scheduled winter break was associated with a higher injury burden, both before and during the two periods following the time that many European teams take a winter break. Teams without a winter break (English clubs) had a higher incidence of severe injuries following the time of the year that other teams (other European clubs) had their scheduled break.

KEYWORDS:

climate; injury; midseason break; professional; soccer; winter break

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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