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The Effect of Playing Position on Injury Risk in Male Soccer Players: Systematic Review of the Literature and Risk Considerations for Each Playing Position

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TAKE-HOME POINTS

  • Playing positions haven’t been extensively evaluated as an injury risk factor in elite, non-elite, and youth soccer (football).
  • Different playing positions may have different injury rates and patterns due to different load, different movement patterns, and peculiar combination of anticipated and non-anticipated (reactive movements).
  • The existing literature suggests that goalkeepers seem to be at lower general injury risk if compared to outfield players in male soccer (football).
  • There is also a tendency towards strikers (forwards) to be at higher risk of match (but not training) injuries. This result is however not consistent between all the studies considered and should be interpreted cautiously.
  • When studying injury risk in male soccer match and training injuries should be considered separately and playing position should be evaluated as a potential predictor of injury incidence.


 

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ABSTRACT

Soccer (football) is a complex contact sport with a substantial risk of injury. As injury surveillance is the first step of the injury prevention paradigm, soccer epidemiology is well reported in the existing literature, but less is known about the actual role of player position on the general injury risk.

The goal of this study is to present the existing evidence regarding the influence of player’s position on general injury risk in male soccer.

A systematic review of the Medline database was carried out. Only English written studies on male soccer and citing playing position as a possible determinant of injury risk were included. One hundred and two full texts were evaluated for eligibility, and 11 studies were selected for the qualitative synthesis.

Of the 11 studies included in the systematic review, 5 didn’t find any significant correlation with between player’s position and general injury risk, while the remaining 6 studies found player’s position to be correlated with injury risk, with mixed findings depending on each study. The most consistent finding was a tendency for goalkeepers (GKs) to sustain less injuries compared to outfield players. When considering only the studies reporting just the match injury risk, forwards seemed to be at higher risk, even if there wasn’t a complete agreement.

Few studies have evaluated a possible effect of playing position on general injury risk in male soccer. There is no agreement if weather or not different playing positions are associated to a higher injury risk. GKs seem to be at lower risk of injury when compared to outfield players.

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