Muscle injuries may be associated with a congested match calendar

This paper, from the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study, has shown that muscle injuries occur more frequently when players have less than five days recovery between matches.1.

Clubs participating in the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study are often participating in the UEFA Champions League, in addition to their domestic leagues, and as a result have a relatively congested match calendar. The primary aim of this paper was to investigate the impact of these matches on injury rates. Two different variables were used to investigate this. Short-term match congestion was defined as the number of days that had elapsed since the player’s last recorded match (days between matches). Long-term match congestion was defined as the total hours of match exposure that the player had been exposed to in the preceding 30 days.

If players were allowed more than six days between matches, the muscle injury rate was about 20% lower than if they had three days (or less) between fixtures. There was no difference between the ‘short-term’ measures and the rates of other injury types. The study also did not demonstrate any association between long term match congestion and injury rates.

The physiological and psychological impact of load are likely contributor to the higher rates muscle injury. It is known that signs of impaired muscle performance, damage and fatigue can remain for up to 72 hours after a football match. Mental fatigue has been less well studied however may also increase the risk of injury through altered decision making and impaired technical performance .

This study suggests that playing matches with a relatively short turn around (less than five days) is associated with an increased risk of injury. This may be a clinically relevant finding that could impact how a team is selected and may help teams identify players that are at an increased risk of injury. In reality however it would be difficult to implement an adequate rest period. Player rotation strategies would have a role here however it would not be possible to rotate an entire team. It is also unlikely to be logistically feasible to schedule matches to reflect a six day rest period between games.

To learn more about injury prevention strategies that might be useful in football complete the ‘injury prevention’ module in the FIFA Diploma.

Bengtsson H, Ekstrand J, Waldén M, et al Muscle injury rate in professional football is higher in matches played within 5 days since the previous match: a 14-year prospective study with more than 130 000 match observations Br J Sports Med 2018;52:1116-1122.


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BangouraMark FulcherEduardo Souza Recent comment authors
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Eduardo Souza
Eduardo Souza

Vale a pena ressaltar a importância do departamento de fisiologia trabalhando junto com os departamentos de fisioterapia e preparação física no controle da carga de treino e nos trabalhos preventivos de lesão.
Mas, quais sugestões para diminuir esse congestionamento de jogos?

Mark Fulcher

Hey Eduardo. Thanks for the comments. You are right, a multi-disciplinary approach here is is important. The calendar issue is going to be hard to resolve. Managing the playing volume (potentially with some training restrictions), ensuring that evidence based prevention programmes are being used (Nordic hamstring and Copenhagen groin exercises for example) and trying to work with the coaching staff are likely to be of use.


La problématique des lésions musculaires chez les sportifs de haut niveau dépend de la congestion des programmes à court et l’on terme
La non maîtrise des programmes de compétition trop rapprochée exposé les sportifs à des lesions tendino ligament musculaires plus ou moins graves pouvant entraîner des indisponibilité de longues durée
En prenant l exemple sur l UEFA ou nous avons les ligues nationales la ligue des champions le championnat des nations les sportifs n ont pas assez de temps de repos entre les matches pour mieux recupere.
Les préparateurs physique ont de sérieux problème pour la prévention des blessures musculaires