Injury Prevention in Football

ISSPF Article
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Due to the huge financial rewards of being successful at the elite level of the sport, and all the benefits that generally filter through the pyramid network to amateur & grassroot levels within the game, the demands placed upon the players are ever growing. Increased fixture schedules generally included less recovery periods between training & competitive match play disposes players to greater risks of injury. From the grassroot perspective and through the amateur levels of the game the professionalisation of the game have also placed greater demands on the health & wellbeing of the soccer player.

A deeper dive into this area has revealed how elite level players competing at the higher echelons of world soccer such as Lionel Messi, had accumulated between 64 to 69 official competitive games through seasons 2011-2012, 2010-2011, & 2009-2010. This in itself highlights not only the physical demands imposed on top players and explained within the ISSPF accredited online sport science course Physical Training & Soccer Methodology Course, but the need to have a physical & psychological robustness to remain injury free.  

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Injuries in Football

In order to be able to further examine injury prevention strategies & injury prevention exercises, we must first and foremost understand that an injury is defined as the abnormal change in the bodily structure caused either by external or internal damage due to energy transfer exceeding the football player or soccer athlete’s capability to maintain the functionality. Furthermore, the definition of a sports injury would be tissue damage that occurs as a result of participating in sports or physical exercises. According to governing body FIFA, they describe an injury as “any physical ailment suffered by a football or soccer player & which has occurred due to a match or football training, regardless of whether medical attention is required & the time it takes to play again”.

Due to the nature of the game, in which the lower extremities are mainly used for the control, manipulation & movement of the ball, as well as moving activities, the most frequent injuries are in this bodily region, consisting as previously highlighted (approximately 60% of all injuries), within which the knee corresponds to 25%, followed by the ankle. As mentioned earlier, the most frequent diagnoses reported are muscle strains 35% which result in most days missed of training across all levels of the adult game & financial losses in terms of missed games, with sprains resulting in 20% & contusions of between 16% to 24% of injuries. Commonly acclaimed in soccer science, contusions or contact blows, rarely result in lost training days or competition according to the injury audits performed around the world. Most accumulative studies in this area, have reported that the main injuries representing significant loss of participation, regardless of competition level or gender, are ankle sprains, knee sprains, hamstring muscle injuries, & adductor tears, which add between half & two thirds of the total of soccer injuries.

Common injuries in football:

  • Ankle sprain
  • Hamstring strain or tear
  • Calf strain or tear
  • Anterior cruciate ligament damage
  • Wrist fracture
  • Contusion issues
  • Adductor tear or strain
  • Broken metatarsal

What are the main causes of soccer injuries?

  • Poor training session design & training load management
  • Lack of strength, stability & endurance to perform the activities required
  • Injury history
  • Contact or contusion related issues
  • Muscle fatigue, structural or biomechanical issues
  • Age of the soccer or football player
  • Environmental issues (playing surface, pitch or climate)

Having briefly overviewed the importance of understanding injuries and the types of injury sustained in the game or training, we must be able to digest how we can assist players & further explore injury prevention in football and what are the main causes of soccer injuries?

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    What is injury prevention?

    • Injury prevention in a sporting context is an effort to prevent or reduce the severity of athletes, or players’ injuries caused by external & internal factors
    • Developing processes & interventions to minimise the risk of injury before they occur, is a key factor when it comes to injury reduction

    Within soccer cohort’s lower injury incidence & higher match availability have been associated with increased points per league match! Similarly, these key measures are furthermore associated with increase in clubs seasonal coefficient points system, reflecting success in the various international or continental (UEFA, CONEMBOL, ASIAN) Champions Leagues or Copa Libertadores equivalents across the world.

    How can you prevent injuries in soccer?

    As we all know, injuries impair team performance, but any injuries that could potentially be considered ‘training load-related’ are commonly viewed as ‘preventable’, & therefore a poor training design is generally the reason.

    Training load management or Soccer load management refers to the structured process of the appropriate level of training in terms of frequency, duration & intensity. If training loads are managed correctly, then physical attributes such as speed, strength & endurance should be improved safely with main aim of improving performance.

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      As reported in this context, modern day soccer involves continued, intensive cycles of training & games which predisposes players to greater injury risks & the most common injuries caused due to the accumulation in fatigue. Previous investigations within this area has already found significant correlations between low training & match availability due to injury, with decreased team success (Arnason et al, 2004) –  which is quite a common sense statement on the fact that ‘teams need their best players available more of the time to be successful’. Furthermore, teams and clubs with less resources or limited financial budgets will be placed under greater stress during fixture congestion, and further highlights the needs of these clubs to maintain high levels of training availability & have their best players available. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard from many managers asking for more time between games & the increased injury rates across the 2020 season.

      The majority of injury prevention in football studies surrounding injuries today have generally examined the effects of individual components on injury incidence. However, this is not representative of a soccer specific environment where the time constraints are very apparent emphasising the need for the development of a mixed conditioning approach that allows for the simultaneous development of several fitness qualities, inclusive of injury prevention strategies. From a practical perspective, injury prevention programs are generally implemented with the expectation to elicit improvements in performance, through increasing players’ availability & reducing lay-off durations when injury does occur, whilst reducing the incidence of injury.

      Injury Prevention Exercises for Soccer

      What are some ways to practice soccer injury prevention?

      Key elements that should be included within these strategies according to previous research in this area are:

      • Functional strength development – linked to sport specific movements
      • Eccentric strength – overloading the key muscle groups related to injury
      • Isokinetic testing – in order to highlight key areas of strength focus
      • Balance & proprioception training – strengthening key areas & joints linked to injury
      • Plyometric exercises – development of strength & power linked to robustness
      • Training load management – ensuring coaches balance fatigue, fitness & freshness
      • Functional movement screening – ensure players or athletes are capable of moving with sound efficiency before loading or training

      When discussing the injury which causes the greatest financial burden to teams, clubs, players & organisations through competitive & training time loss – hamstring strains & tears are the greatest….

      The increase in the specific strength of the hamstrings can be very helpful in the prevention of team sport injuries: one specific study amongst professional soccer players involving them performing a 10-week strength training program, emphasized how eccentric hamstring overload exercises significantly reduced the incidence of injury in the control group with a decrease from 67% to 20%.

      Pre-existing injury is one of the most important factors, and as a result the preventative work performed is imperative to minimise the initial risk.

      Through the medical & sport science links from within FIFA, a specific warm-up program known as the FIFA 11+ which consists of 10 simple & short exercises aimed at structuring a warm up & injury prevention strategy that requires minimal equipment. The FIFA 11 + consists of 3 stages: 1) running exercises & 2) strength-plyometrics & balance followed by 3) 2mins of more extensive & increased intensive exercises.

      How to implement injury prevention programs within soccer

      Injury prevention strategies as they are known within a sporting context, are a common feature in a practitioners training schedule & increased as an area of research & innovation in recent times. Despite numerous training exercises available & implemented within a multicomponent training program, there seems little evidence-based guidance as to what exercises may be considered effective in actually reducing the incidence of injury. A recent study in elite level soccer reveals how a multi-component injury prevention program (ie. Proprioception, Functional Strength, Core Development & Mobility) within the elite level of the game can have significant effects on the incidence of muscle strains & tears, which are regarded as the most commonly encountered injury in soccer across many levels. However, the findings from within this study did reveal that the injury prevention strategy used may not be adequate in reducing the total number of injuries.

         

        Further Developments

        The research and literature reviews in the area of injury prevention strategies, as well as more guidelines surrounding injury prevention strategies have increased exponentially over the last few years. The demand for injury prevention specialists or sport science jobs with a focus on injury prevention in football is growing year upon year. Thousands of students are leaving university with a sport science degree, however many of them asking the key question – What now? How do I get a job in football? What’s the next step? Which area of sport science do I want to specialise in?

        This is certainly an interesting question as jumping from completing a sport science degree to then trying to gain a job working in professional football & trying to understanding all the key components and soft skills that come with jobs in football or careers within sport.

        Injury reduction, prevention & return to play within team & individual sports remains a hot topic in recent times, and an area that that is a fundamental component of supporting performance maximisation & coaching. The bespoke courses developed by ISSPF Faculty members are a way of further exposing sport science students, coaching individuals working within the game & other soccer science & performance coaching enthusiasts with a thirst to develop further.

        The link below will take you to the hugely popular & expertly designed ISSPF endorsed, & accredited Injury Prevention & Return to Play online sport science & sport coaching course, where you will be exposed to sport science research and practical examples used within varying levels of team sports. 

        Whether you are a physiotherapist, psychologist, coach, manager, physio or strength & conditioning coach – this course with football science components throughout targets the nutritional, psychological, physical & social aspects of the topic matter and is aimed at propelling your development to another level.

         

        Why is this course important?

        • Provides most efficient training methods and detailed insights into developing player fitness alongside tactical strategies & developing a training methodology
        • Gain a better understanding how to maximise development & preparation of players in a more efficient & contemporary game model approach
        • Learn how to balance key training elements from a technical, tactical & physical preparation in order to attain peak performance
        • Practitioners & coaches can only benefit themselves & their players further by a more in-depth knowledge of physical training & soccer methodology
        • Help maximise your decision making through a better understanding & appreciation of tapering & soccer periodisation

         

        Who is this course for?

        • Coaches, trainers, and other serious individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training, preparation, rehabilitation & coaching aspects of both individual athletes or team sports
        • Individuals with an interest in developing knowledge in the preparation, training & development of footballers or soccer players

        https://www.isspf.com/certificate-in-soccer-injury-prevention-return-to-play/

         

        FAQs:

        ·         How can you prevent injuries in soccer?

        ·         What are some ways to practice injury prevention?

        ·         What exercises help with soccer?

        ·         What are the 3 most common soccer injuries?

        ·         What are the main causes of soccer injuries?

        ·         What are the common injuries in youth soccer?

        ·         How to prevent ACL tears in soccer?

        ·         How to prevent knee injuries soccer?

         

        All these frequently asked questions will be answered & further detailed information provided within our ISSPF online injury prevention & return to play course – we look forward to seeing you there!