PhD fellowship fundamental research of Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), Belgium
Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)
Ghent Univeristy (Belgium)
The development of youth soccer players in the academies of professional clubs involves specialized training from a very young age onwards. These development programs characterized by their high training loads and high training frequency, are developed to prepare talented young players for the increasing demands of contemporary professional match play. Football is a complex contact sport, characterized by intermittent, explosive actions, and is associated with a high risk of acute and overuse injuries in elite level youth players. Injury incidence and risk factors are well known in older adolescent and adult players, but these are thought to be different in (pre)pubertal players due to a different susceptibility of the immature muscular-skeletal system. Moreover, during puberty, players appear to be even more susceptible for injuries due to the changing body proportions and physical characteristics, as well as the temporary motor awkwardness associated with the adolescent growth spurt.
To date, epidemiological research in (pre)pubertal elite level football players from 9 to 15 years of age is limited and often faces methodological shortcomings leading to inconclusive evidence. Also, the determinant role of growth, maturation, physical fitness and motor coordination in the risk for sustaining injuries is not fully understood. Therefore, the overall aim of this three-year large scale prospective cohort study in Belgian U10 to U15 elite level football players, is to provide a detailed overview of the injury incidence and patterns. Furthermore, the risk for sustaining injuries in relation to growth, maturation, physical fitness, and motor coordination will be investigated in detail using different, state-of-the art methods of analysis.