Elite female players have a good understanding of injury prevention strategies but may lack medical support

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This FastFact highlights data collected at the FIFA Women’s World Cup held in France in 2019. The study features work from clinicians at two FMCE’s as well as staff from the FIFA Medical Office. The study’s primary aims were to evaluate the knowledge, beliefs and practices of elite female footballers towards injury prevention.1

The study involved sending a survey to the players from all national teams participating at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. A total of 196 players (from a possible pool of 552 players) agreed to participate in an online survey addressing injury prevention programmes in their domestic clubs. The RE-AIM (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, maintenance) framework was used to guide the development of the final 18 question survey.

This cohort of elite players were concerned about the risk of injury with more than 80% of believing that that their risk of injury is moderate or high. The majority (more than 90%) of believed that it is important to try to prevent injuries, 85% reported feeling positive or very positive about prevention programmes and 80% reported participating in some form of injury prevention programme at their club. Players reported only one intrinsic factor for injury, low muscle strength, as an important risk factor for injury, followed by seven extrinsic risk factors (poor pitch quality, artificial turf, too much training, reduced recovery time, hard tackles, too little training and too many matches). One interesting area that the study has highlighted, that needs further study, relates to the use of artificial turf. Despite the majority of existing published data suggesting that the risk of injury is not increased by playing on this type surface, players participating in this study (and indeed other cohorts of elite players) believe that playing on artificial turf places them at an increased risk of injury.

A final important finding is the limited access to medical support for these elite players. One third did not have a dedicated physiotherapist in their club team, 40% did not have a team physician and almost half did not have a sports scientist or strength and conditioning coach. This is a concerning finding and emphasises the need to further support female players at all levels of the game.

In general terms there is a paucity of studies involving high level women’s football. More data is needed to help support these players and to continue to improve the safety of the game at all levels.

To learn more about injury prevention and issues specific to the women’s game consider completing the ‘Injury Prevention’ and ‘Female Player’ modules in the FIFA Diploma in Football Medicine.

1. Geertsema C, Geertsema L, Farooq A, et al. Injury prevention knowledge, beliefs and strategies in elite female footballers at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 04 January 2021. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2020-103131

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13 January 2021 0:28