Perceived links between playing surfaces and injury: A worldwide study of elite association football players

Background: Injuries in association football (soccer) are debilitating for players and can also be detrimental to the success of a team or club. The type or condition of a playing surface has been empirically linked to injuries, yet results are inconclusive. The overall purpose of this study was to analyse elite football players’ perceived links between playing surfaces and injury from a worldwide cohort of players. The results of this study can help to inform areas for future playing surface research aimed at trying to alleviate user concerns and meet user (i.e. the player) needs. Methods: Quantitative data were collected from 1129 players across the globe to address the aim of this study. Results: Ninety-one percent of players believed the type or condition of a surface could increase injury risk. Abrasive injuries, along with soreness and pain, were perceived to be greater on artificial turf. Surface type, surface properties and age were all potential risk factors identified by the players and linked to the playing surfaces. Conclusions: The results identified three areas where future research should be focussed to help develop surfaces that alleviate user concerns and meet user (i.e. player) needs: (i) current reporting of soreness, pain or fatigue as injuries, (ii) contribution of surface properties to injury; and (iii) surface experience of players from different countries differentiates their views of injury risk.