Injuries at UEFA EURO and LaLiga: differences between the tournament and a regular season

Injuries at UEFA EURO and LaLiga: differences between the tournament and a regular season

05/07/2021 By: Victor Escamilla y Alejandro del Estal Home

We are bringing a study by Ekstrand and collaborators for UEFA EURO 2016 in which it summarizes the epidemiology of injuries in this competition and compares it with what happens in a regular season of LaLiga. For this reason, in the section of analysis of articles and studies, we bring today a current article, playing the quarterfinals of the UEFA EURO 2020 and with Spain classified.

The research group of Ekstrand et al (2016) published a report in 2016 analyzing the epidemiology of injuries from the UEFA EURO 2004 championship to the last one in 2016. It included the main findings of what happens with injuries during a competition and the evolution process that its variables have followed over the years. Additionally, we compared that data with research from Noya et al (2014) during a regular season in LaLiga, to know the differences with respect to a more regular tournament where your competition is not settled in elimination matches.

UEFA EURO 2016: injury report

The report entitled: UEFA EURO 2016 Injury Study Report” that was published in September 2016, highlighted the change that has occurred in the incidence of injuries, where their incidence is substantially lower in 2016 compared to previous tournaments. The 2016 data indicates that, during the tournament, 46 players suffered the total amount of the 49 injuries that occurred during the tournament and that 80% occurred during the match. In addition, the number of injuries differs during the different phases of the tournament, being lower during the preparation phase compared to the high rate that occurs in the knockout phase (which goes from round of 32 to the final) where the injuries are more severe and with major absences.

The UEFA EURO has also undergone a change in relation to the type of injury, 55% of injuries registered in 2016 were muscular, this percentage has increased from 23% in 2004 without being the injury that caused the most concern to the medical services of the national teams.

Currently, muscle injury is clearly the biggest problem in soccer’s elite, being an injury with multiple factors that can be control such as the state of the tissue or the training load ratio.

Jan Ekstrand, 2016
Uefa Euro Thermohuman Statistics

Finally, from this study, we highlight the increase in non-contact injuries compared to previous Euro Cups. This may be due to the evolution of refereeing with great improvements in the control systems of the game and indicates that non-contact injuries (most due to overuse such as muscle injury) have been increased, probably as a sign of fatigue of the players, For this, monitoring tools such as thermography can be great allies for the control of physiological processes.

A regular season in LaLiga: the injury report

On the other hand, Noya and collaborators published in 2014 a study where they analyzed the same considerations as in the previous UEFA EURO report (type of injuries, incidence rate and injuries mechanism) during the 2008/2009 LaLiga season.

Our interest was to know which variables stood out in this report to compare them with that of UEFA.

The research by Noya et al (2014) pointed to muscle injury as the most prevalent among the type of injury that occurs during a regular season, closely followed by ligament injury, 17% and 15% respectively. Most injuries occurred during competition, Noya et al (2014) did not distinguish this variable, so we had to go to the systematic review of Pfirrmann et al (2016) to highlight the competition with a ratio of 15.3 over 4.9 of training per 1000 hours of exposure.

Finally, the injury mechanism also points to non-contact actions as the most frequent to trigger an injury, as we saw in the previous sections more dependent on modifiable factors and therefore more susceptible to controlling and reducing their occurrence through monitoring tools.

Javier Noya, 2014
LaLiga ThermoHuman Statistics

Comparison of injuries produced during a regular season of LaLiga and an UEFA EURO tournament.

Unlike international national team tournaments, regular seasons will have a higher incidence of injury to joints such as the ankle or knee, with 21.6% and 13.6% incidence respectively, while in In the international tournament, the incidence drops to 12% in both joints, with the thigh (first) and the pubis (second) being the areas with the highest incidence. This may be due to the fact that the regular season is a longer tournament and makes it possible to trigger injuries produced by the mixture of neuromuscular fatigue and the accumulation of injury-triggering events, where the body’s stabilization systems are going to be affected.

Secondly, the injury mechanism during international tournaments, such as the European Championship or the World Cup, currently offers data similar to what happens during a regular season. However, if we compare what happened in Euro 2008 (where Spain was champion) or even in the investigations of Junge et al (2013) who analyzed the World Cups from 1998 to 2012, the main injury mechanism was contact actions. This may be due to the evolution of refereeing, but also to the neuromuscular fatigue that we impose on players. Since, at present, a national team player can compete in 50-80 official matches a year, which is more than one match a week. That can also obviously increase all muscle injuries.

Lastly, the injury rate during the regular season increases for training sessions compared to international tournaments. This may be due to the difficulty of managing the fatigue produced by the matches during the congested period of competition or the stress produced by the international competition that increases the triggering actions of injury during the matches by having a higher level of activation.

Comparison statistics ThermoHuman

As a conclusion, currently both competitions have a similar tendency to produce the same type of injury in the same region and by the same mechanism this could be due to the fact that both competitions already share similarities in the ways of organizing the calendar, such as a congested match schedule, where the control of fatigue processes on the muscle areas most sensitive to injury, such as the quadriceps and hamstring muscle groups, could help change this trend.


Ekstrand, J. (2016). UEFA EURO 2016 Injury Study Report – [Archivo PDF]

Noya Salces, J., Gómez-Carmona, P. M., Gracia-Marco, L., Moliner-Urdiales, D., & Sillero-Quintana, M. (2014). Epidemiology of injuries in First Division Spanish football. Journal of sports sciences, 32(13), 1263-1270.

Pfirrmann, D., Herbst, M., Ingelfinger, P., Simon, P., & Tug, S. (2016). Analysis of injury incidences in male professional adult and elite youth soccer players: a systematic review. Journal of athletic training, 51(5), 410-424.

Junge, A., & Dvorak, J. (2013). Injury surveillance in the world football tournaments 1998–2012. British journal of sports medicine, 47(12), 782-788.

Europa Thermohuman ThermoHuman has had the support of the Funds of the European Union and the Community of Madrid through the Operational Programme on Youth Employment. Likewise, ThermoHuman within the framework of the Export Initiation Program of ICEX NEXT, had the support of ICEX and the co-financing of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

CDTI Thermohuman has received funding from the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI), in participation with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), for the R+D activities involved in creating a new tool, based on thermography, for the prediction and prevention of rheumatoid arthritis. See project detail.