Soccer players take it on the shin

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The Independent Online
It might be only a game - but 10 per cent of all injuries treated in hospital accident and emergency departments are caused by football, a study has revealed.

Most occur during amateur league games and county level matches. They range from cuts and bruises to fractures of the shin bone.

The latter, which account for 13 per cent of football injuries, are responsible for a disproportionate amount of disability, medical costs and days off work, compared with more common footballing injuries, says the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers focused on 100 amateur football players with tibial (shin) fractures, with an average age of 26. They found that players in all positions were affected and all fractures occurred during tackling, with one in two resulting from a kick on the shin from the front.

Almost 75 per cent of the injuries occurred in local league games and county level matches.

Dr John Hardy, one of the authors of the study, said that inadequate standards of refereeing and poorly designed shin guards were responsible for many of the injuries.

"In accordance with FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations) regulations, more than 83 per cent of players were wearing shin guards, but these are only effective as protection against abrasions, contusions and lacerations. They are incapable of withstanding an impact to cause a tibial fracture," Dr Hardy says.

Tibial fractures are rarely seen at professional level, due to the better fitness, training and experience of professional players - but these make up only 2,500 of the 1.5 million footballers in England, say the authors.

In total, 826 days were spent in hospital by the group of 100 patients and 6,667 days of employment were lost. Two patients required bone grafts and 13 suffered secondary complications.

Around 10 per cent of British adult males play football at least once a year. Football injuries cost the country an estimated pounds 8m annually in medical treatment and days off work, the study says.