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Injury risk is greater in physically mature versus biologically younger male soccer players from academies in different countries

Hall, Elliott CR, Larruskain, Jon, Gil, Susana M, Lekue, Josean A, Baumert, Philipp, Rienzi, Edgardo, Moreno, Sacha, Tannure, Marcio, Murtagh, Conall F, Ade, Jack D, Squires, Paul, Orme, Patrick, Anderson, Liam, Whitworth-Turner, Craig M, Morton, James P, Drust, Barry, Williams, Alun G and Erskine, Robert M (2022) Injury risk is greater in physically mature versus biologically younger male soccer players from academies in different countries. Physical Therapy in Sport, 55 (May). pp. 111-118. ISSN 1466-853X

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Abstract

Objectives To investigate if maturity status was associated with injury risk in male academy soccer players. Design Prospective cohort surveillance study. Setting Professional soccer academies. Participants 501 players (aged 9–23 years) from eight academies in England, Spain, Uruguay and Brazil. Main outcome measures Players were grouped by maturity offset as pre-peak height velocity (PHV), circa-PHV, post-PHV or adult. Injury prevalence proportion (IPP) and days missed were recorded for one season per player, with training/match exposure recorded in a sub-sample (n = 166). Results IPP for all injuries combined increased with advancing maturity, with circa-PHV (p = 0.032), post-PHV (p < 0.001) and adult (p < 0.001) higher than pre-PHV. IPP was higher in post-PHV and adult than pre-PHV for non-contact (p = 0.001 and p = 0.012), soft-tissue (both p < 0.001), non-contact soft-tissue (p < 0.001 and p = 0.005), muscle (both p < 0.001), thigh (both p < 0.001), ankle (p = 0.035 and p = 0.007) and hamstring injuries (p = 0.041 and p = 0.017). Ligament/tendon IPP was greater in adult versus pre-PHV (p = 0.002). IPP for growth-related injuries was lower in post-PHV than pre-PHV (p = 0.039). Injury incidence rates (n = 166) exhibited similar patterns to IPP in the full cohort. Conclusions Injury patterns were similar between post-PHV and adult academy players but, crucially, relatively more of these groups suffered injuries compared to pre- and circa-PHV (except growth-related injuries).

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