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J Sci Med Sport. 2019 Oct 10. pii: S1440-2440(19)30355-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2019.10.001. [Epub ahead of print]

Risk of acute and overuse injuries in youth elite soccer players: Body size and growth matter.

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Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium; Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO), Belgium. Electronic address:
Amsterdam Collaboration on Health and Safety in Sports, Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam Movement Sciences, The Netherlands; Department of Sport, Exercise, and Health, University of Basel, Switzerland.
Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium.
Department of Physical Therapy and Motor Rehabilitation, Ghent University, Belgium.
Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.



This study investigated anthropometric measures and growth as risk factors for overuse and acute injuries in younger (U10-U12) and older (U13-U15) elite level soccer players.


Prospective cohort study.


Height, weight, and sitting height were measured at the start and the end of the 2016-2017 competitive season and growth velocities were calculated. Throughout the season, injuries were registered continuously by the (para-)medical staff of the included clubs. We analyzed the injury risk using multilevel Poisson regression models, accounting for club and team clustering.


Of the included 314 players (11.7±1.7 years of age), 160 players sustained 133 overuse and 163 acute injuries (i.e. 106 injuries in 69 players of the younger group, 190 in 91 players of the older group). In the younger group, risk of overuse injuries was associated with an increase in leg length over the season (incidence rate ratio (IRR) 1.620 [95% CI 1.230-2.117]) and risk of acute injuries with relatively younger age (IRR 1.003 [95% CI 1.000-1.006]). In the older group, a higher leg length was associated with an increased risk of overuse injuries (IRR 1.055 [95% CI 1.011-1.108]), and a higher weight and a lower growth rate with an increased risk of acute injuries (IRR 1.043 [95% CI 1.021-1.067] and 0.903 [95% CI 0.831-0.981], respectively).


Injury risk factors differ by age group and type of injury. The age-specific anthropometric and growth-related risk factors should be monitored and these risk profiles should be considered to manage injury risk effectively.


Adolescent; Child; Football; Injury prevention; Injury risk; Youth sport

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