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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

FIFA claim rules have cut injury numbers

BERLIN, July 2 (Reuters) - A clampdown on tackling from behind and the less frequent use of the elbow have contributed to a fall in the number of injuries suffered by players at the World Cup finals compared to four years ago.

Professor Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's Chief Medical Officer (CMO), told reporters at FIFA's daily briefing on Sunday that with statistics gathered after 58 of the tournament's 64 matches, the number of injuries in total had dropped significantly.

'From all 64 matches in 2002 there were 171 injuries, compared to 129 injuries from the 58 matches collated so far.

'With an average of 2.2 injuries per match we expect the overall total at the end of the tournament to be less than four years ago.'

He said that referees clamping down on tackling from behind had contributed to the decline in injuries and said there were fewer head injuries as well.

'The use of the high elbow has also dropped and there has only been one serious use of the elbow to date.

'In Japan and Korea there were 25 head injuries leading to four players suffering concussion. So far there have been 11 head injuries and just one concussion.'

He also reported that all 228 doping tests carried out so far had been negative.

'We are very optimistic that this will be the third successive World Cup without a doping case,' he added.