BIHUB PATH

October 11, 2022

Injury Management
Team sports performance

Information Exchange between Club and the National Football Team: a Common Action Plan for Injury Prevention

By BIHub Team.

Professional football players can be called up for National Team duty at various points in the year including short periods of ~10 days in competitive seasons and every couple of years a major international tournament is played (e.g. FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championship). The transition between a club and the National Team poses a challenge for the football players’ health and performance since they can potentially be exposed to alterations in the training structure (i.e. load, duration, frequency, intensity etc). As such, the information exchange between clubs and National Teams is a key element for injury risk mitigation and for the development of a consolidated training program that targets some level of consistency for the player.

There is limited scientific evidence for transitions between club and National Team. Of the few studies that do exist, it has been shown that players can be exposed to an increase in the internal training load when transitioning from club to National Football Team specifically. It was also shown in one case study of the FIFA 2014 World Cup and AFC 2015 Asia Cup that players exposed to less internal training load with their club teams and a concomitant increase in their National Teams on average incurred a non-contact injury. However, it is important to remember that the data were aggregated and looking at the individual player level, there were some players who exhibited an increase with no injury occurring and on the contrary, players who showed no such increase but did incur an injury. The key message appears to be that while there may be some general trends, these do not necessarily imply anything at the individual player level and as such teams need to consider each individual when planning the program following transitions. 

Willing to go deeper into the transition between club and National Teams, Alan McCall led a FIFA ( read reference 1 below)supported study with the medical and performance departments of the National Teams competing at the FIFA 2018 World Cup. Using the Delphi Method, created by an executive committee made up of two sports scientists, a sports physical therapist, and a specialist in communication and organisational design, the project uncovered four key areas that were agreed by the medical and performance departments to best facilitate the exchange of player information between teams; (i) what medical and performance information to ideally share, (ii) how to use the information, (iii) identified challenges to sharing of the information and (iv) the most efficient way to collect data.

Information Consensus

Once the three rounds of the delivered questionnaires were over, a series of agreements were established in relation to the four key areas the study was based on. The experts’ answers coincidence percentage to reach consensus was set at 70%.

In relation to the type of information gathered, experts from the surveyed medical staff agreed that the general information about the epidemiology of injuries, both time-loss and non-time loss ones (number of injuries sustained, mechanism, type, and length of injury) should be reflected in the reports shared between teams, as well as the specific information about injury detection and previous recovery treatment that each footballer’s undergone. On the other hand, experts from the surveyed physical staff agreed that the information related to the footballer’s fatigue and their readiness to train/play, including training and match loads, prevention programs, and constraints in relation to a specific type of training should be gathered and shared. 

As regards information treatment, both groups agreed that it should guide the planning and individualisation of the footballer’s health treatment and their training programs. It was also agreed that this information should be applied in the coaches selection strategy when deciding the player list.

During the information exchange, both groups independently agreed that the main challenges detected were the communication between the club and the National Team, the willingness of staff to share certain information, and the quality and completeness of the information shared. To solve this, both groups agreed that a standardised form and a shared database should be used as the best way to gather such information. 

 

A Solution Based on Three Pillars

The study uncovered and highlighted three elements that, when tackled jointly by both club and National Teams, could optimise player care and performance.

  1. From the medical perspective, it is key that the club and the National Team share relevant and simple information about the epidemiology of the injuries that reflect their location, type (contact or non-contact), mechanism, quantity, and the possible period of absence both disabling and non-disabling injuries may cause. Sharing this information in a consistent, accurate and high-quality way may have a positive impact on the strategies for injury risk mitigation, and consequently, on the footballer’s care.
  2. From the physical perspective, the focus was on the information gathered by measuring the workload and fatigue, especially the one related to the external training and competition load (measured by GPS devices), responses to these lods through internal workload (measured by the rating of perceived exertion), and fatigue indicators (measured by subjective markers and GPS devices). It was also agreed that while information related to physical fitness would be useful, this idea was finally discarded by the respondents, highlighting it wouldn’t be possible in the context of the National Football Team.
  3. Finally, experts from both entities agreed that personalising each footballer’s rehab process, treatment, and training programs would be ideal. An accurate personalisation of the work plans, approached from a multidimensional perspective (mean, physiological, psychological, and nutritional) could be crucial to minimise the risk of a possible performance decrease in big competitions.

While it was out of the scope of the Delphi study, we remind readers of the importance of following the most appropriate data sharing legal and privacy guidelines and work closely with those in your respective club or National Team before sharing personal player information. The player should also be aware of what is being shared and understand that they can withdraw consent at any time. 

 

Reference 1. A. McCall, M. Davison, A. Massey, et al., The exchange of health and performance information when transitioning from club to National football…, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2022.03.011

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