Competition schedule and injuries in professional soccer

Julio Ceniza Villacastín


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Competition schedule and injuries in professional soccer
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Competition Schedule

In professional soccer, teams can play up to 50 matches in a season (Carling et al., 2015). Elite teams often participate in leagues and various championships, leading to periods of intense match congestion, sometimes playing a match every 5 days.

This accumulation of matches in a short period carries a high level of fatigue that directly impacts performance due to insufficient time for physical and cognitive recovery (Dupont et al., 2010). A shorter recovery time combined with continuous physical impact can increase the likelihood and severity of injuries.

This is a major cause of injuries, making it a priority for professional teams. Thermography has proven to be a valuable tool in the prevention, diagnosis, and monitoring of injuries in soccer.


Some studies indicate that a team of 25 players suffers around 50 injuries during the season, averaging 2 injuries per player per year (Ekstrand et al., 2009). The vast majority of injuries are muscular, but ligament injuries are also quite common.

A report by Howden, published in November 2023, revealed some striking data. The cost of injuries increased by almost 30% (from 553.62 million euros to 704.89 million euros) in the five major European male football leagues. Another noteworthy statistic from the report is the total number of injuries suffered in the top five European male leagues, which was 3,985 during the 2022/23 season.


Figure 1 - Extracted from Howden's report on the cost of injury by professional football league (Europe)

All these data reflect that professional clubs must continue to seek measures to prevent injuries and/or ensure that injured footballers return to competition as soon as possible with the highest possible guarantees.

In this sense, thermography can be a great ally to monitor and understand how training load is assimilated, the recovery or fatigue state of the athlete, and the evolution of the injury. As mentioned in other articles, various studies support the potential of thermography to reduce injuries in professional soccer (you can see the study with four professional football leagues in this article). The key lies in its frequent and systematic use, along with an intervention protocol that facilitates communication between medical and coaching staff. The consistency of results among different teams and professionals applying this technology confirms its potential to reduce injuries in high-performance sports.

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Carling, C., Gregson, W., McCall, A., Moreira, A., Wong, D. P., & Bradley, P. S. (2015). Match running performance during fixture congestion in elite soccer: research issues and future directions. Sports Medicine, 45, 605-613.

Dupont, G., Nedelec, M., McCall, A., McCormack, D., Berthoin, S., & Wisløff, U. (2010). Effect of 2 soccer matches in a week on physical performance and injury rate. The American journal of sports medicine, 38(9), 1752-1758.

Ekstrand, J., Hägglund, M., & Waldén, M. (2009). Injury incidence and injury patterns in professional football-the UEFA injury study. British journal of sports medicine.
Report Howden’s 2022/23 Men’s European Football Injury Index. Published 20 November 2023.