With the UEFA European Under-19 Championship reaching its conclusion this past weekend, the information for the latest stage of UEFA's injury study is also being gathered together from the eight teams who have been taking part in the finals in the Czech Republic.
The study was launched in the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League season, and expanded to tournament level at UEFA EURO 2004™, while the effects of artificial turf have been studied since 2003. Professor Jan Ekstrand, the leader of the injury studies' research team, said: "UEFA, FIFA and other confederations were concerned about longer seasons and injury rates, so it was on their initiative in 2001 that this study was launched." Henrik Magnusson, the injury study co-ordinator at the U19 finals, added: "We're trying to learn more about injuries – patterns and risks – and obviously the main goal is to increase the safety of the sport and decrease the injury rate. This is the 15th tournament we have covered. In the Champions League study, 14 teams are now covered in countries all over Europe."
Injuries during matches
As the study has now been running for several years, the team of doctors and analysts have been able to discern some general patterns, as Magnusson explains. "In terms of incidents, most injuries occur during matches and at youth level the incident level of injuries is lower than at senior level in general," he explained. "There were higher incident levels at the European U21 Championship and at EURO. There's many possible reasons for this. One potential explanation is that players at youth tournaments don't usually play in such top leagues generally, whereas at senior level many players play in the Champions League and then go to EURO, so they play many more games."
Magnusson has attended the U19 finals for the past two years and, although he believes it is too early to draw firm conclusions, he admits some interesting developments have come to his attention. "The training exposure at U19 level decreased from 2005 to 2007 in terms of how much the teams are training – although the sessions are mostly low intensity," he added. "In contrast, at U21 level the men's teams increased their training from 2006 to 2007. As a pattern, there are always very few incidents during training. Most of the doctors are interested in the work and their co-operation has been good. We visit clubs on a regular basis and have contact with them every month and they get reports from us so they know what we do. In the main they understand what we're trying to do and the importance of the study."
Happily, more than 50 per cent of the injuries sustained at these tournaments are categorised as 'minimal', meaning one to three days out, although Magnusson points out that 'severe' injuries, necessitating an absence of 28 days or more, have also increased. "At U19 level we only had one severe injury in 2005, one in 2006 and four in 2007," he said. "We also divide injuries into trauma and overuse – trauma is a contact injury and close to 90 per cent of problems at U19 tournaments are trauma injuries, with more than 80 per cent occurring during the match. The most common types of injury are sprain, strain and bruising. Close to 30 per cent are ankle injuries and in all tournaments thigh injuries are the most common. At these finals, all the reported injuries have been to the lower limbs and 84 per cent are thigh, ankle or knee injuries."
The injury studies are monitored by the UEFA Football Education Services.
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