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»Head in the Game«

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Long-term health of former elite female football players

Numerous studies have examined the short-term consequences of sport injuries. Little is known on the long-term health effects of an elite athlete’s career.

Cruciate ligament injuries are risk factors for the development of arthrosis and female football players experience cruciate ligament injuries more frequently than their male counterparts. The frequency and pertinence of arthrosis development in elite football players is unclear. It is also in uncertain, whether headers and head injuries lead to the development of neurodegenerative diseases and affective disorders. The project »Head in the Game« examines these two questions in depth and aims to improve the long-term health of former and active elite female football players.

In phase 1, we collected data using questionnaires on general physical and psychological health and on potential risk factors. In phase 2, athletes undergo clinical examinations on structural and functional changes of a) the brain and b) the knee. This research is an international, multi-centric project that is currently conducted in the Netherlands, in the U.S. and in Germany.

Further information can be accessed from our project website.


Duration: 2014 – 2017

Principal Investigator: Professor Dr habil. Astrid Junge

Co-Investigator: Annika Prien, M.Sc.

Funding body: Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)

Cooperation partner: Neurologische Klinik, UniversitätsSpital Zürich; Institut für Sport- und Präventivmedizin, Universität Saarbrücken; VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam; Department of Traumatology and Sports Medicine, Clinic Chahrazed, Algiers; Department Sport und Gesundheit, Universität Paderborn

  • Logo UniversitätsSpital Zürich
  • Logo Universität Saarbrücken
  • Logo VUmx
  • Logo Universität Paderborn
  • German