Tell us more about yourself and the author team.
I am a physiotherapist who has been working with epidemiological studies in professional football for the last ten years as a part of the Football Research Group (FRG). This research group was started by Professor Jan Ekstrand in 2001. While the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study has been our primary focus over the years, we have also been responsible for several other injury surveillance studies in several different contexts. For this project, we were joined by Dr Gallo, the team doctor for Boca Juniors at the time of the research and who was instrumental in getting teams involved with the study.
What is the story behind your study?
The study was first initiated when Professor Ekstrand attended a congress in Sao Paolo. During the congress, he was contacted by team doctors from several South American professional clubs who all expressed their interest in participating in an injury surveillance study similar to what had already been running in Europe for almost two decades.
In your own words, what did you find?
This is one of the first studies to investigate the injury epidemiology in professional South American football, and based on our results, it appears as if the general injury epidemiology in this context is quite similar to what we have seen in European football (which has been studied to a much larger extent). However, we also saw differences between these two continents in some key areas. Specifically, we observed that training injuries and ligament injuries were more frequent in our South American cohort compared to European teams.
What was the main challenge you faced in your study?
It is always difficult to get teams involved in this type of study when it is first launched and before teams get to experience the benefits that come with being involved in a large-scale injury surveillance study (possibility to benchmark your team against other teams in similar settings, detailed information about rare injuries that would be impossible to collect without cooperation between several teams etc.). In our experience, as a study progresses, these difficulties seem to disappear, and teams that once has been involved in an injury surveillance study often wants the study to continue.
If there is one take-home message from your study, what would that be?
The high frequency of ligament injuries is an important finding. It may suggest that the general injury burden in South American football could be reduced by interventions explicitly aimed at ligaments injuries. We also believe that injury surveillance studies like this are a cornerstone in injury prevention research, and the differences between South American and European football observed in this study highlights the need for such studies in specific contexts of interest such as different geographical regions, levels of play, age groups and for both men’s and women’s football.