A prospective study of injuries in professional Saudi Arabian footballers
mesheuropmc: education | human activities
Sports injury registries have been used in a number of different sports to assess the injury rate, prevalence and type. This data is useful for assessing trends and injury “loads” that place a burden on players, coaches and medical support staff. This approach to injury description has been completed in the setting of professional football in a number of countries (e.g. UK, Australia, and Finland) but never in Saudi Arabia.A data collection method proposed by FIFA and based on the principals of first hand injury observation, comprehensive and immediate recording of injuries and accurately timed exposure for both training and competitive matches was employed. In Study 1 we prospectively evaluated the incidence (per 1000 hr of player exposure), severity and nature of injuries in professional Saudi Arabian football players competing in the Saudi Premier League over two competitive seasons (2010/11 and 2011/2012). We compared injury data during training and competitive match play as well as assessing the impact of weather variation on match play injury data. The key findings were; a) that a higher injury incidence was observed during match play, b) injury incidence was highest in prevailing environmental conditions of high temperature and low humidity (dry), and c) that the data compared favourably with elite football data from around the globe.In Study 2 we widened the structured approach to injury data collection to include a comparison with Saudi national team players thus evaluating the impact of player level upon injury incidence. The key findings were; a) players in the national team had a substantially greater injury incidence than players in the Saudi Premier League, b) injury incidence in national team players was higher during match play compared to training, and c) muscle and soft tissue injuries (contusions, strains, tears, cramp etc.) were, by far, the most common type of injury. These latter two points confirm data from Saudi Premier League players.In Study 3 we examined the prevalence and nature of injuries associated with playing football on 3G artificial turf compared with natural grass in the Saudi national football team. This was achieved in a quasi-experimental design involving data collection at two international football tournaments completed within a short time period and involving many of the same national team players. The key findings were; a) the frequency of injuries and the injury incidence rates were slightly higher on grass compared to 3G, b) most injuries sustained on both surfaces were at the lowest level of severity with no absence from football activity required, and c) on both surfaces, the most common injury site was the lower limb and the most common injury type was muscle and soft tissue injuries.In Study 4 we adopted a prospective intervention-based design to evaluate the effect of progressive lower limb, dynamic balance training programme on injury incidence in Saudi Premier League footballers. Baseline injury statistics were compiled over 2 seasons in 4 clubs. Two of these clubs then undertook a short, pre-season-based intervention that was focused on progressive dynamic balance training. Two clubs completed their normal pre-season training with no specific attention paid to balance training. All players at the 4 clubs were then followed prospectively for a further competitive season with injury and exposure data recorded as per the baseline period. The key findings were; a) adherence to the intervention balance training was excellent as it was integrated into the clubs pre-season training programme, b) injury incidence data were marginally reduced in the intervention group but the clinical significance of these data cannot be established, and c) small, and sporadic changes in injury incidence were noted in the control group that should be taken into account when making any interpretation in the intervention group.Overall we adopted a standardised and detailed injury and exposure data collection process that yielded novel data with respect to Saudi Arabian Premier League and national team players playing on natural and synthetic surfaces as well as in relation to a specific balance intervention. These data will inform local clubs, medical staff, the Saudi FA and the broader football and sports medicine fraternity as well as acting as a springboard for further research.
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