A comparison of injuries sustained on artificial and natural soccer turfs among premier soccer league football players in Zimbabwe
Background: The International Football Federation (FIFA), through their Goal project, renovated Rufaro stadium from natural turf (NT) to artificial turf (AT). This was met with mixed feelings especially with regard to injuries sustained by football players. There is no published scientific data on football injuries in Zimbabwe. Aim: To determine the frequency of injuries on AT and NT among Premier Soccer League (PSL) players in Zimbabwe. Objectives: To determine the attitudes of players regarding the different football playing surfaces, and the incidence, severity and injury types on AT and NT. Methods: The 2013 season's16 PSL teams were selected to complete questionnaires and injury report forms. Injuries recorded during matches on AT and NT were analyzed. Outcome measures were injury incidence (injuries/1000 player hours (Phrs) of exposure)compared for AT and NT using rate ratios (95% confidence intervals). All statistical significance were set at p<0.05. Results: A total of 325 players responded and 295(90.8%) preferred playing on NT. Of these, 250(76.9%) believed that AT was associated with more injuries. A total of 364 injuries occurred during 4455phrs of exposure giving an injury incidence of 81.7 injuries/1000phrs.A total of 69 games (1138.5phrs) on AT revealed an injury incidence of 85.2 injuries/1000phrs while 201 games (3316.5 phrs) on NT revealed an overall incidence of 80.51 injuries/1000-hrs.This analysis showed no statistically significant difference in the incidence of injury between AT and NT surfaces during matches played, [RR= 1.06; 95% CI: 0.84 – 1.34]. With regard to injury severity, the highest incidence occurred on the AT (31.62/1000phrs in the mild category) and the lowest incidence was on the NT (1.81/1000 phrs in the severe category) .The rate ratios for the severity were however not statistically significant. Comparison of the injuries according to body part injured largely revealed insignificant rate ratios. Conclusion: Football players believe that the AT is associated with increased risk of injury. There was no significant difference in injury incidence rates and severity between the AT and NT during the 2013 PSL season in Zimbabwe. The incidence of injury in this study was much higher than comparable European studies and is a need for further studies to explore the underlying reasons for this.