Right or wrong, soccer referees undergo a tremendous amount of scrutiny from fans. I’m sure they are under a lot of pressure. No doubt the stress takes its toll night after night.

Now a study shows that referees take a lot of physical stress too – and they can get injured as a result. In a study published in the journal Sports Health, Ramin Kordi, MD, MS, PhD and his team looked at injuries among soccer referees from a top national league over the course of an entire season.

Injury statistics for soccer referees

Soccer player receiving a yellow card from the match refereeThey collected data on 74 referees, 30 of whom were main referees and 44 who were assistant referees. The officials suffered 102 injuries during that season. As a result of those injuries, main referees missed 10 matches, and assistant referees missed 18. As fans might expect, main referees had injury rates 2.5 times greater than assistants.

Tendon and muscle injuries were most common. The lower extremity – and in particular the lower leg – was the most common location of injury. In descending order, the most common acute injuries were ankle sprains, calf spasms and groin strains.

Also read:
The unseen scrutiny of soccer referees
Faking injuries can threaten more than the game
Do males or females fake more soccer injuries?

Recommendations for referees

While certainly not as demanding as soccer is on players, it is physically demanding on referees as well. Referees need to maintain good cardiovascular conditioning, lower extremity muscle strength, core stability and flexibility throughout the year. They should also warm up properly before each match. And quite possibly, the soccer injury prevention programs that could decrease a variety of injuries among players might benefit the referees too.

Are you surprised about the number of injuries among referees? Are you a referee who has been injured before? Share your thoughts!

Kordi R, Chitsaz A, Rostami M, Mostafavi R, Ghadimi M. Incidence, Nature, and Pattern of Injuries to Referees in a Premier Football (Soccer) League: A Prospective Study. Sports Health. Published online before print March 20, 2013.