PhD Programme Science and Health in Football  - Introduction external PhD candidates Rilind Obertinca and Rina Meha

Injury Prevention in Football (Rilind Obertinca, Sports Physiotherapist, MSc, Kosovo)

Although football is one of the most popular sports worldwide, it carries a risk of injury for players, both at professional and amateur level and in all age-groups. Studies show that the number of injuries tends to increase with age, with most injuries being located in the lower extremities, particularly at the ankle, knee and thigh.

Given the high importance of injury prevention, recently, the focus on developing injury prevention programs has increased significantly. Some of these programs are designed to prevent specific injuries, such as ACL or hamstring injuries, while others are designed to prevent overall injuries in football.

The aim of this doctoral project is to devlope a new injury prevention program and to analyze its effect on prevention of overall injuries in football payers.

Rilind Obertinca holds a Master of Science in Sports Phyiotherapy from Lithuanian Sports University, Lithuania and a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy from University of Prishtina, Kosovo.


Cognitive Performance in Football (Rina Meha, Clinical Psychologist, MSc, Kosovo)

Every football action includes a cognitive element. During the game players are exposed to a large number of stimuli, and it is continually required from them to make accurate decisions towards these stimuli. A high level of cognitive skill is required to enable players to attain their physical and technical potential. Skills such as game intelligence, spatial perception, anticipation, reaction time, attention shifting, and pattern recognition are relevant cognitive skills. These skills can be increased by ensuring training sessions to train not just the physical components but also challenges and neural pathways.

An improved cognitive performance has a positive effect on sport performance and may enable a reduction of recovery time after an injury. Therefore, the aim of this project is to investigate the effect of an injury prevention program on cognitive performance in young football players.

Rina Meha holds a Master of Science in Cognitive Neuropsychology from University of Sheffield, Greece and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Prishtina, Kosovo.  


"Impftrain" - Study shows that vaccination against influenza can be safely and effectively performed in elite athletes

The term "Impftrain" combines the German word "Impfung" (=vaccine) and training and has been chosen as name for a study that has been funded by the German Federal Institute of Sport Science and has been conducted in the years 2016 - 2018. Findings are now completely published:

Ledo A, Schub D, Ziller C, Enders M, Stenger T, Gärtner BC, Schmidt T, Meyer T, Sester M (shared senior authorship): Elite athletes on regular training show more pronounced induction of vaccine-specific T-cells and antibodies after tetravalent influenza vaccination than controls. Brain Behav Immun 83, 2020: 135-145.

Stenger T, Ledo A, Ziller C, Schub D, Schmidt T, Enders M, Gärtner BC, Sester M, Meyer T (shared senior authorship): Timing of vaccination after training: immune response and side effects in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc: in press (epub ahead of print).

The combined working group of the departments for sports and preventive medicine (Prof. Meyer), transplant and infection immunology (Prof. Sester) and microbiology and hygiene (Prof. Gärtner) was able to show that elite athletes do not have an impaired immune response to an influenza vaccine. This has been speculated by several practitioners and scientists and is based on some experimental observations of immune cell populations being decreased within the first hours after intense exercise. Also, the study indicates that side effects from vaccination are not frequent and severe enough to interfere with training. Finally, no relevant difference in immune response or side effects was documented between vaccination shortly after training vs. one day later which is of high relevance for the medical care of elite athletes who usually train on a daily basis.

The authors summarize that influenza vaccination seems to be a safe and effective method of infection prophylaxis in elite athletes, and no constraints need to be applied for timing of vac- cinations in relation to their training sessions. This is very much in line with the conclusions of a prior review which two of the authors  have already published in 2014:

Gärtner B, Meyer T: Vaccination in elite athletes. Sports Med 44, 2014: 1361-1376


UEFA unveils heading guidelines for youth players

These heading guidelines are amongst other things based on the 'UEFA Heading Study', a multi-center study conducted in 8 European countries.

Beaudouin F, Gioftsidoiou A, Larsen MN, Lemmink K, Drust B, Modena R, Espinola JR, Meiu M, Vouillamoz M, Meyer T. The UEFA Heading Study: Heading incidence in children’s and youth’ football (soccer) in eight European countries. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science In Sports 2020.


Key points:

The purpose of this UEFA Heading Study was to examine the characteristics of heading in children’s and youth’ football (soccer) in eight European countries. The current data present the first real-life assessment of the heading incidence during match play and training in a large-scale Europe-wide sample of young football players.

  1. The lowest number of headers per match was observed in Under-10 teams, followed by Under-16 female and Under-12 teams, whereas Under-16 male teams experienced the highest heading exposures.
  2. Taking exposure time into account, the lowest incidence of heading was observed in Under-16 females.
  3. Considerable differences between countries were apparent.
  4. Very few head injuries (none of them heading-related) resulted in a low incidence rate.
  5. Under-10 teams carried out the lowest number of headers per training session, followed by Under-16 females, Under- 12, and Under-16 males.
  6. In contrast, when taking exposure times into consideration lower heading incidence rates were found in Under-16 females and males compared to Under-10 and Under-12.
  7. No head injury occurred during all training sessions.




PhD Programme Science and Health in Football  - Introduction Max Smith