Health and fitness for the female football player
© AFP

Women's football is allegedly the fastest growing sport on the planet. The FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 was therefore an ideal occasion to provide players with a personal health guide for the beautiful game.

The myths and prejudices surrounding women playing football are manifold, as are the risks and benefits for the health of female players. Unfortunately, objective data on these issues are still scarce, as most of the research is carried out on men. Consequently, most of the scientific advances in the women's game so far have been based on research directed at men.

The FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) therefore decided to review and summarise current scientific knowledge on the health issues concerning women players. Referring to its own research data over the past ten years, a comprehensive update has just been published in the renowned British Journal of Sports Medicine*, providing the football medicine community with the most up-to-date information available. Moreover, important open questions have been raised that urgently await responses from sports doctors.

Not only the doctors but also players and coaches need to be informed of the health and fitness of the female player. A booklet was therefore produced especially for female players,coaches, and referees. It specifically addresses the health and fitness of female footballers and how these aspects differ from the men's game. It aims to answer as many questions as possible on injury prevention, nutrition, bone protection and specifically female gender issues affecting players and coaches.

The booklet provides players and coaches with a scientific-based practical guide that helps them to protect their health and fitness in daily life. It is aimed at allowing women players to assume responsibility and make informed decisions, whether they play just for fun or in a national team.

"I wish there had been something like this when I was playing. I never knew about the dangers of amenorrhoea and its significant long-term effects, for example, or how certain injuries such as anterior cruciate tears could be prevented," says former US women's national team player Mary Harvey.

The booklet is currently available in English but will be published in the other three FIFA languages within the next month. It is written in understandable layman's language and can be ordered free of charge from the FIFA medical office in Zurich and also downloaded from FIFA.com (See document link)

*Women's football, guest editors Jiri Dvorak, Astrid Junge, Colin Fuller, Paul McCrory: British Journal of Sports Medicine; Volume 41, Supplement 1, August 2007