Injury prevention for footballers


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Monday, 16 March 2015

Dr Mark Jones, FFA Head of Medical Services and Socceroos Team Doctor
With the new community outdoor season upon us it is timely to discuss some simple principles of injury prevention.

Football is played across a wide age spectrum, at various competitive levels, and in a diversity of environmental conditions.

It has great benefits physically and psychologically. However, enjoyment of the sport can be impacted upon by injury.

Injury can be classified as acute or overuse (chronic/repetitive) and may or may not be a result of direct contact.

One of the main injury risk factors is incomplete recovery from a previous injury.

Therefore it is important to ensure you have engaged in appropriate rehabilitation/treatment and allowed adequate time for recovery from any previous injury.

It can be wise to consult with a doctor or practitioner such as physiotherapist etc, if specific rehabilitation or treatment advice is required.

Fatigue either in general or in a specific part of a game can contribute to injury risk. Improvement in general, and sports specific fitness can reduce injury risk.

Training schedule or load is important to consider. For example, in older age groups, an awareness of periodisation of training, that is conditioning, pre-competition and competition periods, and factoring in recovery or easier weeks can be considered. Avoid training overload.

Sports specific refers to training appropriate for the skills and physical strength, flexibility, balance and agility requirements of that sport.

Warm up, inclusive of dynamic stretching, is important prior to a training session.

FIFA11+ is an injury prevention program developed by international experts that can be used as a complete warm up in itself.

FIFA11+ incorporates core strength, eccentric strength, proprioceptive (balance) and plyometric exercises.

This program has been scientifically researched extensively and proven to reduce injury rates in footballers dramatically.

The program can be found on the FIFA website.

There should be an appropriate cool-down after training or a match which could incorporate stretching for example.

Attention should be given to adequate recovery between training or after matches.

Current research has shown one of the main factors to assist with recovery from physical exercise is adequate sleep.

Appropriate nutrition and hydration also assist with recovery and performance.

Protective equipment such as shin pads and goalkeeper gloves and padding not just in matches but also in training is helpful.

Taping ankles, for example, can play a role in injury prevention.

Football boots that provide appropriate support for one’s particular foot type can be considered, particularly with respect to lower limb overuse injury.

The condition of the playing field is an external factor in injury risk.

And, obviously, adopting a fair attitude and avoidance of deliberate foul play goes without saying.

In younger children, being mindful of the need for extra stretching during growth spurts can negate some particular injuries that affect children, example Sever’s Disease and Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.

These are some of the simple measures that can be considered in order to prevent injury, maximise enjoyment of participation, and in some instances assist with performance.

Appropriate further online reading resources on FIFA11+ and other medical articles can include: