Phase 1 of the HITG study about to launch in the USA
FIFA has introduced a new research area, entitled “Long-term Health of Football Players” to evaluate potential health consequences of a professional football career. While exciting results of the first study of the HITG project conducted in Germany are currently being published, a second study is now being launched in cooperation with U.S. Soccer.
About one third of the 157 former elite female football players who participated in the German study reported serious injury or chronic physical complaints after retiring from their professional career. One quarter of players are currently suffering with osteoarthritis. The collected data suggests that these long-term health effects are linked to frequency and severity of injuries incurred during the football career. HITG study ambassador and three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Birgit Prinz says:
Given the results of the first study and also based on my own experience, it is clear that long-term physical health in elite football players needs further investigation.
Since cognitive impairment following minor head injury has been discussed extensively in the media, neuropsychological health is a second focus of the study. “The results of scientific studies are contradictory, and thus, to date there is no convincing evidence that our players are at risk, given that head injuries in football are considerably less frequent and less severe than in full contact sports such as boxing, ice hockey or American football”, says Prof. Dr Astrid Junge, Principal Investigator of the HITG Project.
In the first phase of the U.S. study, an online questionnaire will be sent out to former players of professional and college soccer leagues. Based on the results, it is planned to subsequently invite players to take part in the second phase of the study, which involves a clinical and radiological examination as well as neuropsychological testing.
This is an exciting opportunity to further improve our health care system for professional soccer players during and also beyond their professional career.
Dr George Chiampas, Chief Medical Officer for U.S. Soccer, elaborates further: “we are very pleased to have football stars Birgit Prinz and Cindy Parlow Cone as ambassadors of our study and hope that many more former professional players will support us with their information!”