BACKGROUND : Medical illnesses and sports-related injuries both have an effect on athlete health and performance. Epidemiology of injury and illness has been extensively researched during international soccer tournaments and the European soccer season. Reports on injury location and severity differ across geographical regions, and there is limited information on injury epidemiology in African soccer leagues. No studies have investigated the illness burden in soccer in Africa.
METHODS : This was a prospective cohort study involving two soccer teams over the 10-month duration of the 2015/16 Premier Soccer League in South Africa. Team medical staff recorded daily soccer exposure, illness and injuries. Team-based match and training exposure was calculated and used to determine injury and illness incidence and burden over the soccer season.
RESULTS : Overall injury incidence was 2.2/1000 hours, with match injury incidence of 24.8/1000 hours and training injury incidence of 0.9/1000 hours. Time loss injuries accounted for 33 of the 44 injuries recorded. The most common time loss injury location was the knee (14 injuries, 42%). There were 7 minimal, 4 mild, 12 moderate and 10 severe injuries. Sprain/ligament injury (8 injuries) was the most common type, followed by meniscus/cartilage injury (7 injuries). Eleven illnesses were reported during the season, with an incidence of 0.7/1000 player days, and most were minimal in severity (8/11). The illness burden was 1.7/1000 player days. The respiratory (46%) and gastrointestinal (36%) systems were most commonly affected.
CONCLUSIONS : The incidence of injury was comparable with data reported internationally and mirrors the increased risk of injury during matches versus training. The nature of injury differed in that the knee was more frequently affected than the ankle or thigh, joint injuries were more common than muscle injuries, and there was a larger proportion of severe injuries. The illness burden was very low.