Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center

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Information about project titled 'Health conditions detected in a comprehensive periodic health evaluation of 558 professional football players'

Health conditions detected in a comprehensive periodic health evaluation of 558 professional football players

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Project status: Published
Project manager: Arnhild Bakken
Supervisor(s): Roald Bahr, Karim Khan, Erik Witvrouw
Coworker(s): Stephen Targett, Tone Bere, Johannes Tol, Rodney Whitely


Introduction: Injury and illness are common in footballers. A PHE or screening is widely used to detect and manage health problems which may influence the athlete’s ability to train or compete. It is also used to identify the athlete at risk with a view to implementing targeted prevention measures. FIFA encourage all football teams at elite level to complete the football-specific Pre-Competition Medical Assessment (PCMA) which includes a comprehensive cardiovascular, general medical and musculoskeletal assessment. However, there is limited research into the effectiveness of PHE, with the efficacy of PHE detecting serious risk factors and health conditions being called into question.

The purpose
of this study was to assess health conditions detected by a comprehensive PHE in professional male football players and evaluate their consequences for participation clearance.

A total of 558 professional football players in Qatar completed a PHE prior to the 2013 or 2014 seasons including history, general medical (including blood test), cardiovascular (12-lead ECG and echocardiography), and a musculoskeletal examination, including a specific test battery targeting lower extremity strength and flexibility. A health condition was defined as any condition sufficient to require either treatment, further investigation, or recommendation to follow-up.

The PHE detected at least one health condition in 95.5% of players.The findings demonstrated a high prevalence of players with a general medical condition (Vitamin D deficiency) whereas the musculoskeletal examination detected a musculoskeletal condition requiring follow-up (e.g. physiotherapy, prevention programmes) in 32.3% of players. Cardiovascular screening required 8.6% of the players to perform further investigations, mostly because of suspect anomalies on ECG and echocardiography. However, only a few of the health conditions impacted on clearance for participation in football.

This study demonstrated that a PHE can detect current health conditions, which are believed to be relevant for health and performance. However, whether many of these conditions confer future health risk is not known. Prospective studies are required to determine the benefits of screening (and subsequent targeted interventions) for each of the components of the PHE.

The study was peformed at Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital in Doha, Qatar, and is part of a larger PhD project led by a PhD student at the Oslo Sport Trauma Research Center, Arnhild Bakken.