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Strict enforcement of elbow-head fouls: is it working?

Strict enforcement of elbow-head fouls: is it working?

Video analysis of soccer matches has successfully described the mechanisms of injury and has identified specific circumstances that raise the chances of a more serious injury and extended time loss. Video study of Norwegian male professional football matches from 2000 to 2010 has verified that the rate of injury from player contact has risen by about 50%. Before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, referees were given the authority to administer an immediate red card for an intentional elbow-to-head contact as well as late or two-footed tackles.

The project was designed to determine if this new interpretation of Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) had reduced the incidence of these injury mechanisms in Norwegian male professional football. After meeting with the Norwegian federation, the professional league, and officials in 2010, this stricter enforcement would begin for the 2011 season. A pre-intervention/post-intervention design was designed. Pre= rate of incidents and injuries from the 2010 season; Post=incident and injury rates for the 2011 season. An incident was recorded if there was video evidence that the referee had interrupted the match, and the player lay on the turf for more than 15 s, and either appeared to be in pain or received medical treatment. Each team’s medical staff recorded the time-lost to injury.

Videos from all 240 matches each season were reviewed. Over the course of the season, there were a total of 1421 contact incidents recorded. The resulting rate was 92.7 events (95% CI: 86.0-99.4) in the 2010 season and 86.6 (95% CI: 80.3-99.4) in the 2011 season (P=n.s.). There was a 19% reduction in the incidence of total head incidents (rate ratio (RR) 0.81, 95% CI: 0.67-0.99), and a 28% reduction in arm-to-head incidents (RR 0.72, 95% CI: 0.54-0.97). In the 2010 and 2011 seasons, there were three and four concussions respectively were reported. Summarizing, no differences in tackling characteristics or contact injury rate were found with the introduction of more stringent sanctions. However, the rate of head and arm-to head incidents was lower in the 2011 season, but no real difference in the incidence of injury.

Bjørneboe J, R Bahr, J Dvorak, TE Andersen.
Lower incidence of arm-to-head contact incidents with stricter interpretation of the Laws of the Game in Norwegian male professional football.
Brit J Sports Med 2013: doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091522 [BJSM]

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Don Kirkendall
Don is a lifelong player and licensed coach with a PhD in exercise science who continued his love of The Beautiful Game’ by studying soccer on multiple levels. With over 80 published peer-reviewed publications, many focused on soccer, Don brings a broad perspective on training, nutrition, and specific topics in football medicine. He sits on the US Soccer Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

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