Exploring the Relationship Between Match-related Physical Performance and Injury – Could Modern Match Analysis Contribute in Injury Prevention?
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Injury rates are high in modern soccer, and studies have shown that physical performance declines progressively throughout a soccer match, indicating development of fatigue. This gives reason to explore an association between match-induced fatigue and injury risk, in order to prevent injuries during soccer games. A team of elite players was analyzed over four and a half seasons to determine the match-related physical performance over 15-min periods. In addition, information regarding injuries over the same seasons was examined. Further, players who sustained an injury were graphically analyzed in 5-min periods to determine the link to physical performance. All positions experienced a significant progressive decrease in total distance covered and load; while a less pronounced trend was evident for high-speed running distance, sprint distance and number of accelerations. The injury rates showed a nonsignificant trend of increased frequency over time in each half, with non-contact injuries being the most frequent. A total of eight players who sustained an injury during match play were further analyzed to examine the association with match-related physical parameters. Exploratory visual analysis revealed fluctuating trends between players. The most consistent finding was reduced accumulated player load for seven out of eight players in the 5-min period preceding injury. An interesting finding was that two players sustaining a non-contact injury in the second half showed a sudden cut-off point in accumulated high-speed running, sprint distance and load in the preceding 5-min periods to injury. These results indicate that it is possible to detect a level of fatigue that could increase the player’s risk of injury. This suggests an association between physical performance and injury that could be possible to further explore using parameters based on modern match analysis.