Papers of the week (October 2019 – II)

 In sports science


Dunlop, G., Ardern, C.L., Andersen, T.E., Lewin, C., Dupont, G., Ashworth, B., O’Driscoll, G., Brown, S. & McCall, Allan (2019). Return-to-Play Practices Following Hamstring Injury: A Worldwide Survey of 131 Premier League Football Teams. Sports Med.



A large increase in research is showing in recent years in science applied to football. However, the sports science and medicine are not always synchronized, despite being an aspect considered gold-standard for an appropriate Return to Play (RTP) process. In this sense, translation of research into the practical setting has a great potential to develop and deliver new information that can enhance RTP practices. The main problem is that some consensus statements (i.e., objective markers should guide RTP progression) how criteria, tests and thresholds are actually used in the practical setting are unclear.

To determine if current research recommendations are being translated into practice, and if not, the purposes of this study were (1) to determine if premier-league football teams worldwide follow a RTP continuum, (2) to identify RTP criteria used and (3) to understand how RTP decision-making occurs in applied practice.

310 professional football teams from 34 premier-leagues worldwide were invited to participate. The purpose and procedure of the online survey was explained.

131 teams responded with a completed survey (42%). 124 (95%) used a continuum to guide RTP, assessing a combination of clinical, functional and psychological criteria to inform decisions to progress. 105 (80%) teams reported using a shared decision-making approach considering the input of multiple stakeholders. Team hierarchy, match- and player-related factors were common challenges perceived to influence decision-making.

Take Home Messages

  • There is too much variability in the criteria used by teams at each phase of the return-to-play continuum to guide progression. This could be caused by a non-applicable and complex research, far from truth.
  • Academic and practical entities such as the Football Science Institute (FSI), which bring sports and medical science closer to the real football context are more indispensable. This entity operates as a link between science and practice, and will allow clubs/practitioners to follow a shared decision-making process that includes all departments (i.e., medical, fitness coach, rehab coach, physiotherapist)
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