• Decreased exercise levels during the off-season lead to:
• A deterioration in the load tolerance of our tendons
• Reductions in muscle strength, endurance, and power.
• Reduced balance and co-ordination via a dampening down of the brain to muscle nerve pathways.
• Reduced aerobic fitness
• Loss of flexibility
Points to Consider with pre-season training:
• Begin early so there can be a gradual build up to full match fitness for the first game. Research shows that it can take several weeks for the collagen cells within your tendons to adapt to the increasing demands. Time will vary according to how much inactivity there was during the off-season, and the older athlete is generally more susceptible to tendon injuries.
• Include strength training specific to the sports requirements. For example:
1. Sports involving sprinting will require hamstring strengthening to decrease the risk of hamstring tears.
2. Sports requiring jumping will require calf, quadriceps, and gluteal strengthening
3. Sports involving lots of changing direction such as soccer will require adductor strengthening to minimise the risk of groin strains
4. All sports require strengthening of the “core” muscles. These are the muscles that provide stability to the pelvis and spine so the limbs work off a platform that is not moving excessively. I consider the pelvic floor, abdominals, diaphragm, deep back, and gluteal muscles make up the core.
• Include balance and co-ordination drills. This may include:
1. Foot speed drills
2. Single leg balance drills
3. Change of direction
4. Exercising on unstable platforms
5.Drills with training partners involving controlled body contact perturbations.
• For sports involving jumping and landing, include landing training and teach correct landing strategies. Research into ACL preventative strategies show that teaching deep landing strategies and improving lower limb and gluteal strengthening is very effective at reducing ACL injury rates.
• Sports specific training is crucial for development of higher-level movement skills and adaption of strength, coordination and flexibility into performance. Game situations are best performed earlier in training sessions before bodies are fatigued so injuries are less likely to occur during the most difficult training aspects.
• Static stretching is useful for maintaining or developing flexibility in our muscles. This is best at the end of a training session or away from training in the athlete’s own time. Tight regions need to be stretched daily in order to improve.
An example of a 20 minute warm up routine that has been advocated for football players can be found at www.fifa.com. It is called the “11+” program and includes many of the aspects mentioned above.
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