Match Situations Leading to Head Injuries in Professional Male Football (Soccer)—A Video-based Analysis Over 12 Years

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Abstract

Objective:

To identify risk situations promoting head injuries in professional male football (soccer) and to investigate the impact of a rule change in 2006 punishing elbow-head contacts.

Design:

Analysis of video sequences of head events leading to head injury.

Participants:

Professional football players of the first male German Bundesliga.

Main Outcome Measures:

Observational criteria of head impacts on video recordings (players' actions preceding head injuries, foul play—referee's decision and assessment of rater, ball possession, on-pitch medical treatment, and consequences of head impact).

Results:

Three hundred thirty-four head injuries were reported in kicker Sportmagazin corresponding to an incidence rate of 2.25 (95% confidence interval 2.01-2.51) per 1000 player match hours. The injured player predominantly jumped (60%), headed the ball (36%), or ran forwards (20%); the noninjured players mainly jumped (64%), headed the ball (27%), or raised the elbow to the head (23%). Free ball situations (2 players challenge for the ball) caused most of the head injuries (81%). The players' action “raising the elbow” during a head injury seemed to be lower after the rule change.

Conclusions:

Jumping for the ball with the intention of heading is the predominant action associated with head injury risk. Head injuries occur most often when players challenge for the ball in a header duel. As head injuries bear the potential risk of long-term health sequelae, the identification of situational circumstances is essential to develop preventative means in the future.

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