Injury prevention for footballers
Injury Prevention For Footballers
Injuries in football are common. In a recent press feature, football was the sport most likely to result in a participant’s injury. Running came second, topping sports such as boxing, rugby and tennis. Research was conducted by UK health and wellbeing provider Benenden.
An individual’s injury history can give insight into the likelihood of re-injury. Pre-season screening is essential to identify risk factors that could predispose an individual to injury. Most professional clubs perform musculoskeletal and functional movement screening on all of their players from age 8 upwards. This is to establish if an individual has any weaknesses that will make them more prone to injury. When an area is identified, corrective pre-habilitative exercise programme is given.
Adequate recovery and rehabilitation from previous injury is essential to avoid a knock on effect to other areas of the body and an impact on performance. Physiotherapy is widely perceived as focusing on treating people after injury. However, physiotherapy’s role in enhancing performance is gaining ground over recent years.
At Response much of our work is about restoring equilibrium to achieve balanced form and function. We can target specific muscles that have been shown to be problematic in the past and work to stabilise specific joints, such as the ankle. This approach alone focuses on injury prevention and improved efficiency through enhanced muscle strength, flexibility, motor recruitment, neuromuscular control and spatial awareness. All of these elements then feed into an enhanced ability to perform.
There are various steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of injury.
Adequate warm up
Dynamic stretches, (where the stretching involves movement) and make this sport specific. Think of the warm up as a ‘dress rehearsal’ working up to the main performance by giving an understated version of what is to come, perform specific movements with and without the ball that are typical in football, focus on key muscle groups of the chosen sport, so in football the hamstrings which are commonly injured, the groin and ankle are all an important focus.
Strength and technique
Appropriate strength and technique are also important considerations for injury prevention. Ensuring pre-season strengthening starts pre-season not mid way! Improving performance goes hand in hand with preventing injury which is another key motivation. Squats are an excellent strengthening exercise to get started on pre-season, perfecting your technique to ensure there is maximum effort through the gluteals and the lower limb is well aligned.
A great start for all players is adopting the FIFA 11+
FIFA recommend these exercises are supervised initially as it is important to perform them with correct technique.
Monitor training Load
Volume and intensity are key factors in overuse injury. Now the problem with these isn’t that we are working at too high a volume or intensity, it is that we are not allowing enough rest before we do it again. Doing a high volume high intensity workout and then doing it again without sufficient rest can lead to overuse injury.
Appropriate loading will prevent injury by maintaining the balance between intensity and frequency.
Are there any ways to “reset the system” so it is ready to work hard again?
One way for land based exercises to be reset in time for a new high intensity workout is water based exercise. We don’t mean getting in the pool and pounding lengths as this becomes a high intensity workout. Certain activities in water will reset the system to begin land based activity earlier.
Here’s a few tips:
Getting into the pool and running in a ‘trot’ fashion rather than progressing through the water will work the calf muscles but with half the impact of on land. This is great as the muscle works with less effort but through range meaning any post exercise tightness is released. It is common to feel groin tightness in football and running, this can easily lead to chronic problems anywhere around the pelvis. Ensuring good hip mobility can help prevent further issues. Taking a float belt and placing it around the waist allows the breaststroke to be practised without sinking. The other option is to swim breaststroke legs on your back whilst holding a float across your waist. (See video link below).
This means you can work on the wide range of breaststroke rather than a classic swimming fast stroke. The muscles that work opposite the groins will help with loosening and strengthening the groin. This is great for post game recovery. Accurate loading will prevent injury by maintaining the balance between intensity and frequency. By performing an activity that is different from your main activity will also help reset muscles, meaning the pool is a great way for land-based sportspeople to free up tired tight muscles and be ready for the next session.
So to summarise ensure an appropriate warm up before you play, make sure you have sufficient strength & skill to perform, address any previous injury or weakness and mix up your training rather than overload with some exercises in the pool with the best pool filters.