Growing Pains: Maturity Associated Variation in Injury Risk in Academy Football

David Johnson, Sean Williams, Ben Bradley, Sara Sayer, Jessica Murray Fisher, Sean Cumming

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Reducing injuries to youth players is of primary importance to academies, as injuries can result in a significant loss in both training and match time, as well as negatively affecting player development. In total, 76 talented young football players were analysed over two full competitive seasons. The injury incidence and burden for all non-contact and overuse injuries were recorded. Exposure was calculated as the total number of competitive matches hours played. Somatic maturation was estimated by expressing the current height of each player as a percentage of their predicted adult height (Roche, Tyleshevski, & Rogers, 1983). The period of circa-peak height velocity (PHV) (24.5 injuries per 1000 h) was associated with a significantly higher injury incidence rate and burden compared to pre-PHV (11.5 injuries per 1000 h; RR:2.15, 95%CI:1.37-3.38, P < .001). No significant differences in injury risk between maturity timing groups were observed. The interaction effect between maturity status and maturity timing confirmed there is a risk period circa-PHV, but this was not dependent on maturity timing. The main practical application of this study is that football academies should regularly assess the maturity status of young footballers to identify those players with increased susceptibility to injury. Moreover, academies should individualise training and injury prevention strategies based on maturation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-552
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Issue number4
Early online date19 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020


  • Youth
  • injury & prevention
  • overtraining
  • team sport
  • training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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