The pattern of non-contact injuries in a South African professional football team




Background: The incidence, pattern and severity of non-contact injuries in European football has been researched extensively. In South African football only two studies have been conducted to date and with disparate outcomes. Further research into injury rates in South African football is therefore warranted.

Objectives: To determine the incidence and pattern of non-contact injuries in a South African professional football team during the course of a single season (2016-2017) in relation to competition exposure, training load and playing position.

Methods: Thirty-four male professional football players belonging to a single team competing in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) in South Africa were studied. Non-contact time-loss injuries (total training and match injuries) were recorded. Injury incidence, location, severity, type, and playing position (defender, midfielder, attackers, goalkeepers) during either match play or training were recorded.

Results: The non-contact incidence was 52 injuries with an injury rate of 3.74 per 1 000 exposures (training and competition). Competitions resulted in an incidence of 26.4 injuries per 1 000 exposure and training incidence 2.08 injuries per 1 000 exposures. Hamstring, groin and quadriceps injuries were the most frequently injured locations and muscle-tendon injuries accounted for the majority of injuries. The majority of injuries (52%) occurred during match play while 48% occurred during training. The greatest absolute number of injuries were sustained by midfielders (50%), followed by defenders (33%) and attackers (17%). However, relative to player numbers, the  greatest number of injuries during match play were for defenders (44%), attackers (32%) and midfielders (24%). During training attackers sustained the most injuries (39%), followed by defenders (31%) and midfielders (30%). Goalkeepers did not sustain any non-contact injuries during the duration of the study.

Conclusion: The non-contact injury incidence in South African professional football players is similar to European football players. Hamstrings and groin injuries are predominant and were sustained throughout the competitive season. Defenders sustained the most non-contact injuries within the team relative to exposure time compared to attackers and midfielders. To our knowledge, injuries relative to player position have not been reported previously. 


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How to Cite

Swart, J., Varekamp, C., & Greyling, J. (2022). The pattern of non-contact injuries in a South African professional football team. South African Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(1).