Muscle Injury Rates in Professional Football Increase with Fixture Congestion: An 11-Year Follow-Up of the UEFA Champions League Injury Study

Bengtsson, H., Ekstrand, J., Hägglund, M.

This study aimed to investigate the impact of fixture congestion on injury rates and team performance in professional football. Over 11 seasons, exposure and time-loss injuries were prospectively recorded for 27 teams. Matches were grouped based on the number of recovery days before each match (≤3 vs >3 days, and ≤4 vs ≥6 days), and injury rates and team performance were compared between these groups.

The findings revealed that team performance was generally not associated with match load or recovery days before matches, except for Europa League matches, which showed more matches lost with short recovery periods (≤3 days). However, total injury rates and muscle injury rates were increased in league matches with ≤4 days of recovery compared to those with ≥6 days, particularly hamstring and quadriceps injuries.

Furthermore, high match load was associated with an increase in muscle injury rates within the same match sequence and an increase in ligament injury rates during training in the subsequent match sequence.

In conclusion, fixture congestion was linked to elevated muscle injury rates but had minimal influence on team performance. These findings underscore the importance of managing recovery time and match load to mitigate injury risk in professional football.

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