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21 UEFA experts advice on muscle injury prevention in elite soccer players

Summary of a survey study asking European soccer leagues experts’ opinions on muscle injury prevention strategies in elite football.

Who

21 experts from 18 European soccer leagues’ male teams (English Premier League, Franch Ligue, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, Spanish La Liga) who had 12±5 years of experience working in elite football and 6±3 year of experience working in UEFA (Union of European Football Association) Champions League.

Design

4 rounds of expert survey on opinions and practical experience.

Outcome measures/tests

  • strategies deemed as effective in reducing sports injuries in elite soccer (football) male players

Main results

  • Strategies perceived as most effective to prevent injuries in soccer:
    • high-speed running (>19.8 km/h) and sprinting (>25.1 km/h) -
      • if there are more than 5 days between matches (M), the best day for sprinting and high-speed running would be M-3 and aim at 100% worse-case scenario for match sprinting and high-speed running
      • with 4 days between matches, additional sprinting/high-speed running training was deemed unnecessary
      • non-playing athletes should run on M+1 or M+2 days
    • eccentric exercise
      • if there are 5 days between matches, eccentric exercises should be performed on M-3 day
      • can be performed before or after soccer training session
      • if there are 4 days or less between matches the low-intensity eccentric exercises can be performed
  • Strategies perceived as “somewhat” effective:
    • concentric and isometric
    • horizontal and vertical plyometrics
    • coordination
    • core stability
    • core and dynamic flexibility
  • No agreement on:
    • multi-joint,
    • resisted sprinting
    • kicking or agility exercises
    • single-leg strength and stability
    • sets and repetitions

Take home message

For a clinician
High-speed running and sprinting, and eccentric exercises are perceived as the most effective muscle injury prevention strategies in male elite soccer (football) players.
For a parent
Sprinting and eccentric training were perceived by UEFA experts as effective in preventing muscle injuries.
For an athlete
Sprinting and eccentric training were perceived by UEFA experts as effective in preventing muscle injuries.

Original article

McCall A, Pruna R, Van der Horst N, Dupont G, Buchheit M, Coutts AJ, Impellizzeri FM, Fanchini M. Exercise-Based Strategies to Prevent Muscle Injury in Male Elite Footballers: An Expert-Led Delphi Survey of 21 Practitioners Belonging to 18 Teams from the Big-5 European Leagues. Sports Medicine. 2020 Sep;50(9):1667-81.

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