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World Cup Injury Statistics Support Benefits of Sport Preparation and Wellness Therapy

Written By Deanna Errico

The World Cup has finished, but many health care professionals likely still have the vision of some of the injuries incurred during the games. There are many different individuals who may provide prevention and treatment prior to and during a game as well as treatment and rehabilitation afterward. Whether an athletic trainer, athletic therapist, physiotherapist, physical therapist, sport physio, sport-certified specialist PT, team physician, or sports medicine specialist (to name a few), the main concern is the health and safety of the participating athletes. No matter one's title or credentials, it is difficult as a medical professional to wait following a player's fall to the ground, whether one's regular work relates to sports medicine or is in another setting. There are rules requiring the official to invite the sports medicine provider onto the field once it is safe. Even when watching from an air-conditioned living room while sitting in a recliner, there is some feeling of anxiety by many with a medical background, knowing the potential of injury to a downed player.

Significant decrease in injuries since last World Cup

It is interesting to recognize that while there were many injuries that did occur this year in the World Cup, there were fewer than past years, and the rate of injury has consistently decreased. According to Davison (2014), FIFA (Federation International Football Association) indicates that there was a 40 percent reduction of injuries to players during the 2014 World Cup compared to 2010. This decrease is significant and is probably a result of players being better conditioned (leading to better prevention), improved officiating that better monitored play that might lead to or escalate injury, and fairer play in the game by participants (Davison, 2014).

The athletes most Physical Therapists (PTs) work with are not necessarily at such an elite level, but it doesn't make the athletes' injuries any less significant. An injury to a player, whether adolescent, college aged, or recreational adult, can be life altering, and that is not to be taken lightly. The APTA's Vision 2020 and New Vision ( promote engagement of PTs in preventative health, which can allow PTs to help people achieve goals for physical activity promoted by Healthy People 2020 ( Physical therapists can help decrease injury risk of clients by preparing them for their active season of sport. This may not be a common approach for most PT clients, but the APTA envisions this as a strategy to help prevent injuries before the season even starts.

Concussions should not be treated lightly

Concussions are also a part of sport, however, there are ways to approach traumatic brain injury during play and to appropriately return an athlete to play in a safer manner. Players, their coaches, and athletic trainers should follow the consensus statement created by experts in concussion during the 4th International Conference on Concussion held in Zurich in 2012 (McCrory, et al, 2013). It was surprising and discouraging to watch as some players returned to play without following these guidelines.

Take the steps to minimize injury before engaging in physical activity

The excitement of the World Cup in the US was palpable. It was invigorating to see so many in the US watching the World Cup and discussing it. If this gets more individuals engaged in activity, whether soccer, another sport, or simply more physical activity, it will be a win for everyone involved. Of course, as PTs we hope that people can prepare for their activities in a manageable way. It would be beneficial for all if participants recognized the potential that a physical therapist can have on their wellbeing and preparedness for sport in order to minimize injury and injury risk. Physical therapists are movement specialists; who better to help individuals prepare for activity and sport?

As a physical therapist in an outpatient setting, are you comfortable contemplating growth of your program to include more Prevention and Wellness? A transitional Doctorate in Physical Therapy may lead you to feel more confident and able to address wellness in your clinic and community. Utica College Online offers an innovative post-professional (transitional) Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Request information or call (315) 732-2640 or toll-free (866) 295-3106 today to learn more.

Dr. Deanna Errico is an Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy at Utica College. She is a Board Certified athletic trainer with extensive athletic training experience. She has also been a volunteer athletic trainer for the US Olympic Committee. Dr. Errico has many publications in both the PT and athletic training arena and has presented at numerous national professional conferences.

American Physical Therapy Association. (2014). Vision 2020. (last updated 1/29/2014). Retrieved from

APTA (2014). Vision. Retrieved from

Davison, M. (2014, 14 July). World Cup 2014: Fewer injuries in brazil is tribute to improved conditioning and fairer play. The Telegraph. Retrieved from:

Healthy People 2020. (2010) Physical Activity Overview and Objectives. Retrieved from

McCrory, P., Meeuwisse, W.H., Aubry, M., Cantu, B., Dvorak, J., Echemendia, R.J., …Turner, M. (2013). Consensus statement on concussion in sport: 4th International Conference on Concussion in sport held in Zurich, November 2012. Br J Sports Med. 47(5) 250-258. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092313