The winter break is 10 day-long on average in European countries, except England who has no winter break. The break allows for recovery and significantly decreases the number of injuries, including severe injuries. The accumulation of fatigue along the 11 months of the season would be the main factor responsible for the higher incidence of injuries without a winter break.
The winter break is essential for recovery during soccer season. Without a break, fatigue builds up, becomes chronic, and therefore number of injuries and players absenteeism increase.
The winter break, 10 days off in the middle of the season…
Most European soccer leagues have a winter break halfway through the season, except in England, where there is no winter break at all. Jan Ekstrand et al. conducted a study (1) on 35 elite soccer teams and compared the injuries of teams with and without a winter break. This study encompasses seven consecutive seasons and includes 9627 injuries that occurred during 1.5 million hours of play (training and matches). The winter break is 10 days long on average but can go from 0 (England) to 27 days (Denmark).
… that allow to decrease injuries and absenteeism
Teams with no break lose 1300 days per season on average whereas teams with a break lose 888 days per season. Adjusting those results to confounding factors, the authors of the study find that teams without a break lose on average 303 days more than the teams with a break each season. Severe injuries follow the same trend, they occur 1.6 times per season without a break versus 1.1 times with one. Thus, absenteeism is significantly higher without a break, which directly impacts performances and finance of clubs.
What about climate?
Obviously, the winter break occurs… during winter! When the injury rate is the highest, which is demonstrated again in the present study. However, the authors found no impact of the period of the year on the association between injuries and winter break. Climate is therefore not the main factor explaining the higher incidence of injuries without a winter break.
Is fatigue the problem?
Past studies, especially during the 2002 World Cup (2) revealed that periods during which the matches are densely scheduled (e.g., each three days) leave the players physically and emotionally fatigued and with depleted energy stocks, which alters performances and increases risk of injuries. It is essential for those clubs, who cannot decide of the competition schedule, to take a fatigue management solution. inCORPUS® is an easy-to-use solution that allows detection and anticipation of fatigue profiles for each player, individually. It is an additional information that adds to what the technical and medical staffs already have, and that allows them to go further and deeper in fatigue management, anticipating and therefore decreasing the number of injuries, improving performances and club's revenues.
(1) Ekstrand, J.; Spreco, A.; Davison, M. Elite Football Teams That Do Not Have a Winter Break Lose on Average 303 Player-Days More per Season to Injuries than Those Teams That Do: A Comparison among 35 Professional European Teams. Br. J. Sports Med. 2019, 53 (19), 1231–1235. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099506.
(2) Ekstrand, J.; Waldén, M.; Hägglund, M. A Congested Football Calendar and the Wellbeing of Players: Correlation between Match Exposure of European Footballers before the World Cup 2002 and Their Injuries and Performances during That World Cup. Br. J. Sports Med. 2004, 38 (4), 493–497. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2003.009134.