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UEFA has issued its Elite Club Injury Study report for the 2012/13 season. The report is a crucial source of information on injuries specific to football – and provides clubs with essential data that will help them in their own work in treating and preventing player injuries.
The study, first launched in 2001 and coordinated by UEFA Medical Committee vice-chairman Professor Jan Ekstrand, gives important information to clubs, associations and the scientific community at large. This innovative research project initiated by UEFA has a major aim, in that it is attempting to help reduce the frequency and severity of physical damage that occurs during football training or matches, and which results in a player being unable to participate fully in training or match play. Consequently, the study also seeks to make a contribution to increasing footballers' safety and physical well-being.
The 2012/13 report contains results from the full campaign, i.e. July 2012 to May 2013, and includes data from 22 clubs, most of whom are regular UEFA Champions League participants, and who delivered full details during the season.
The report is divided into nine sections, each of which incorporate data on general injury patterns, training injuries, match injuries, severe injuries, squad attendance/availability and squad absence, muscle/tendon strain injuries, joint/ligament sprain injuries and recurring injuries.
All nine sections are split into four sub-sections – injury patterns looks at the number of injuries over the season and their distribution in terms of, among other things, location, type, mechanism, overuse/trauma, contact/non-contact, severity and recurring injury rates. Injury incidence analyses the number of injuries relative to training and matches, thereby allowing the individual injury rate to be evaluated.
Injury burden examines the frequency and severity (in days' absence) of injuries, showing the injury burden for a player and consequences for the team. Days' absence features current data such as total number of days lost as a result of specific injuries and the minimum, maximum and average absence for this injury.
The report strives to compare injury risks and injury patterns with the previous years of the study, and the 2012/13 report will add invaluable data to the existing UEFA Injury Study database, enabling the monitoring and analysis of trends in injury risk and injury patterns over given periods of time.
Over an 11-year period, the Injury Study has covered a broad range of issues, including the effects of playing on artificial turf in comparison to playing on grass, when specific injuries might occur over the 90 minutes of a match, and whether injury risks for players are higher at certain points of the season. At the recent sixth UEFA Medical Symposium in Madrid, Prof. Ekstrand highlighted the study's findings, especially the evidence that player injuries had a significant impact on a team's success – for example, results being affected by the absence of key components of a team owing to injury.
One tangible benefit of the pan-European study is that clubs are given benchmarks against which they can measure their own performance in terms of medical care.
"What the clubs don't have is information about how they perform in relation to other teams in other countries," said Prof. Ekstrand in an interview with UEFA.com. "Our reports break down the statistics into specific areas, such as muscular injuries, ligaments and so on, so that clubs can pinpoint their own strengths and weaknesses, and decide which areas they might need to work on."
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