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Heading incidence in children and youth soccer.

Summary of the UEFA’s sponsored study on incidence of heading in soccer (football) among children and youth.

Who

480 female, male or mixed teams from clubs under-10, under-12 and under-16; 60 teams per country accross highest leagues (17%), average leagues (36%) and lowest leagues (47%) (Denmark, England, Greece, Italy, Romania, Spain and the Netherlands).

Design

Cross-sectional observational study. Recording of matches between March and July 2018, and July and November 2018 + one training session.

Outcome measures

  • Header type: intentinal, unintentinal (getting hit), duels
  • Match situation, position of the player, flight distance of the ball, point of contact on player’s head
  • Head injuries
  • Training and match exposure

Main results

  • 3 head injuries correspond to incidenece rate of 0.7 per 1000 match hours (95%CI: 0.23-2.16)

  • Heading in match:

    • 4,302.4 hours of exposure
    • match heading incidence rate in general: Uder-16 females (1310) < Under-10 (1408) < Under-12 (2940) < Under-16 males (3055)
    • 80% of heeders were intenstional
    • 65% headers occured during free game play and after 21% throw-ins
    • Defenders were heading most (44%), then midfielders (40%) and last goalkeepers (<1%)
    • 42% of headers came from the distance of <5m
    • 71% of headers were to the frontal part of the head
  • Heading in training:

    • 2,634.4 hours of exposure
    • training heading incidence rate in general: Under-16 females (2341) < Under-16 males (2511) < Under-10 (4634) < Under-12 (5007)
    • 96% headers were intentional, 2% were duels
    • 83% of headers came during free game play, 14% from throw ins, 2% corner kicks
    • 80% came from <5 meters, 14% from 5 to 10m, 4% 10-20m, and 2% >20
    • 87% headers were to the frontal part of the head, followed by parietal (11%), 1% to temporal.
Under-10
Under-12
Under-16 females
Under-16 males
Total
Head injuries
Training heading IR*
Under-10
4634
Under-12
5007
Under-16 females
2341
Under-16 males
2511
Total
3556
Head injuries
0
Match heading IR*
Under-10
1677
Under-12
2078
Under-16 females
1454
Under-16 males
2665
Total
2025
Head injuries
3

Take home message

For a clinician
In general, the incidence rate for head injuries was the lowest for Under-16 females, followed by Under-10, Under-12 and Under-16 males. The incidence of head injuries was low (3 injuries in matches).
For a parent
In general, the incidence rate for head injuries was the lowest for Under-16 females, followed by Under-10, Under-12 and Under-16 males. The incidence of head injuries was low (3 injuries in matches).
For an athlete
In general, the incidence rate for head injuries was the lowest for Under-16 females, followed by Under-10, Under-12 and Under-16 males. The incidence of head injuries was low (3 injuries in matches).

Original article

Beaudouin F, Gioftsidou A, Larsen MN, Lemmink K, Drust B, Modena R, Espinola JR, Meiu M, Vouillamoz M, Meyer T. The UEFA Heading Study: Heading incidence in children’s and youth’football (soccer) in eight European countries. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2020 Apr 26.

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