About The Program


Each PhD student works on a specific research project and is jointly supervised by two supervisors. A multidisciplinary study schedule, including courses on the theoretical background of the research topics, practical work in performance diagnosis, teaching and transferable skills courses complements the program.

The Institute of Sports and Preventive Medicine at the Saarland University is the main research and teaching environment. It is a licensed FIFA (Féderation International of Football Association) Medical Centre of Excellence and a Medical Examination Centre of the German Olympics Sports Federation (DOSB). Due to activites with highly trained football players and the long-term extensive cooperation with the German Football Federation (DFB) it offers a profound expertise in football science and medical care for athletes and patients.

The scholarships provide the opportunity to work at a FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence and offer the acquisition of high-level expertise in football science. Furthermore, doctoral researchers have the opportunity of participating in a stimulating foreign cultural and scientific context through the opportunities for additional research visits at the partner institutes.

Currently available scholarship: Digital support for return-to-play decisions in football

The International PhD Program “Science and Health in Football” awards 1 PhD Position (two-year doctoral scholarship, net 1.200 Euro per month; possible extension to a third year) on the research topic Digital support for return-to-play decisions in soccer.

Research topic and project outline:
Digital support for decision-making in elite soccer faces a double challenge: In the lead-up, datadriven algorithms struggle to provide accurate predictions of relevant outcomes due to the mismatch between many influencing factors and the limited number of cases available. A relevant example is the risk of reinjury after return to play. At the same time, in reality the decision-making process itself is still highly subjective and poorly understood. This PhD project aims to tackle both challenges in the context of return-to play-decisions using a transdisciplinary approach. Predicting injuries after return-to-play: In situations without clear precedent humans still outperform machines and further improvements may be realized by aggregating the subjective judgements of several individuals. Therefore, a forecasting tournament for injury risk after returnto- play in professional German soccer is envisaged to be part of the project. Understanding how (successful) return-to-play decisions are made: Understanding the decisionmaking process is essential for providing adequate digital support and possibly recommendations for best practice. While this aspect has so far mainly been addressed from the perspective of sport science and rehabilitation, this project will additionally consider the psychology of human decision making.

The candidate
This transdisciplinary project in elite soccer touches on the fields of sport science, psychology, and data science. Experience with handling databases and mobile frameworks for App development is also required. The candidate should further provide knowledge of the psychological scientific work of Gigerenzer et al. on human decision-making behaviour under uncertainty and accordingly in the absence of information. Candidates with a master degree or equivalent and proven (cross-) competence in these fields are invited to apply.

The doctoral researchers will work under the co-supervision of PD Dr. Anne Hecksteden; Prof. Andreas Keller (co-supervisor), Dr. Michel Brink (University of Groningen), Prof. Dr. med. Tim Meyer (head of the PhD program and cosupervisor) and Dr. Thomas Hauser (Head of Medicine and Science, DFB-Academy). Dr. phil. Sabrina Forster (Skorski) will participate in the supervision as program coordinator. A multidisciplinary study program, including courses about the theoretical background of the research topic, practical work in performance diagnosis, teaching and transferable skills courses will complement the PhD project.


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