The efficacy of exercise in preventing injury in adult male football: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Tom Porter, Alison Rushton

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Injury prevention measures might reduce the impact of injury on footballers and football clubs. Increasing research has evaluated the use of exercise for injury prevention. However, research has focused on adolescent females. No high-quality systematic reviews have evaluated the efficacy of all forms of exercise on preventing injury in adult male football.
Our objective was to conduct a systematic review to evaluate the efficacy of exercise in preventing injury in adult male football.
Data sources
Comprehensive searches of electronic databases CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), MEDLINE, Embase, AMED (The Allied and Complementary Medicine Database), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, PEDro (The Physiotherapy Evidence Database), SPORTDiscus™, the National Research Register, Current Controlled Trials website (York), and were conducted using predefined search terms to identify relevant studies published up to 1 March 2013. Screening of references, searches of grey literature, and hand searches of relevant journals were also employed.
Study selection
Included studies were randomized controlled trials using injury incidence as an outcome measure to evaluate the efficacy of an exercise intervention on uninjured male footballers aged 16 years and over. Articles not written in English were excluded.
Data extraction
Two researchers independently searched data sources, screened studies for eligibility, evaluated risk of bias, and extracted data using predefined criteria.
Study appraisal and synthesis methods
Risk of bias of included trials was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration’s tool for assessing risk of bias. There was insufficient trial comparability (outcome measures, interventions, injury type) for meta-analysis, and a qualitative analysis was performed.
Eight trials (n = 3,355) from five countries met the inclusion criteria. All trials were assessed as having a high risk of bias. Two trials reported statistically significant reductions in hamstring injuries with eccentric exercise, and two reported statistically significant reductions in recurrent ankle sprains with proprioceptive exercise. Four trials showed no statistically significant difference in injury incidence with exercise interventions targeting a range of injuries.
Notable limitations of included trials included poor reporting and limited blinding. A high risk of bias and insufficient comparability across trials prevented quantitative data synthesis.
Limitations in the context of study quality and heterogeneity resulted in an inability to reach a clear conclusion regarding efficacy of exercise for injury prevention in adult male football. Future low risk of bias, properly powered, and comprehensively reported trials are warranted to evaluate the efficacy of exercise on injury prevention. The use of eccentric hamstring exercise for hamstring injury prevention and proprioceptive training for recurrent ankle sprain prevention might be a good focus for future trials, as existing trials with a high risk of bias suggest an effect.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages12
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2015


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