African Journal for Physical Activity and Health Sciences

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Injuries among female Rwandan soccer players: Return-to-play decisions

JS Phillips, JD Niyonsenga


Soccer or football is regarded as an increasingly popular sport for women. Several studies highlighted the increased injury rate proportionally to its increased participation. Researchers are of the opinion that some injuries might not be regarded as serious by either the player or the coach thus leading to premature return to sport after initial injury. Return-to-play decisions within a team environment are a difficult and complex one and few studies have examined how coaches view return-to-play decision. A cross-sectional study design using qualitative methods was used to explore coaches’ perspectives on the return-to-sport following an injury sustained by female soccer players in Rwanda. Interviews were conducted with the head coaches of the 12 female soccer clubs registered in the Rwandan first division for the 2010/2011 season. The interview yielded four main themes: decision making regarding return to play; length of time off play; perception of coaches regarding assistance of injured players; and the existence of programmes for returning players. The study shows that the return-to-play is a totally automatic decision, made either by the coach or the player with little evidence of collaborative decision-making. In addition the increased pressure on key players and the premature return-to-play might influence not only the individual’s performance but also the teams.

Keywords: Return-to-play, coaches, female soccer, perspectives.

AJOL African Journals Online