Football Injury Prevention

There has been a growing body of research over many years that helps physios, doctors, trainers, and coaches minimise injury risk in footballers. It is of paramount importance that each player prepare themselves physically for the demands of the game and also the loads of a long football season. This includes juniors, particularly from the onset of puberty. Footballers are particularly susceptible to ankle, knee, and groin injuries.

Below is a quick summary of what the research is telling us about these body regions.

The Ankle

  • Ankle sprains are the most common footballing injury comprising 15-20% of all sporting injuries. Thirty to 40% of players who have sustained a sprain will re-injure their ankle, particularly in the first year. Prevention includes strengthening ankle muscles, developing/recovering proprioception to help preventative reflexes activate quickly, and the use of strapping or ankle braces. Following even mild sprains it is important to get guidance on appropriate rehabilitation, including ankle joint mobilisations to ensure full joint range is recovered. Stiffened ankle joints following inadequate recovery will lead to increased risk of future lower limb injuries.

The Knee

  • Anterior cruciate ligament injuries can be devastating, require reconstruction and take 6-12 months to return to sport. Many players do not return to pre-injury levels. Thirty percent of players sustain a repeat ACL injury, mostly to the opposite leg. Women athletes are up to 5 times more likely to injure their ACL.
  • Preventative measures include
    • strengthening of the abdominals/trunk, gluteal and hamstring muscles;
    • developing good landing mechanics (land low and avoid knock knees);
    • developing good change of direction mechanics;
    • train the proprioceptive and neuromuscular systems for early protective firing of your muscles.
  • The above strategies will also help decrease risk of injuring other knee ligaments or the patellofemoral joint and its tendon.

The Groin

  • Groin pain in footballers is very common and can involve many structures. These include adductor muscles, tendons, and the bones where they attach; the hip flexor and abdominal muscles; the hip and pubic joints. Skilled examination helps to determine which structure(s) are involved and thus the optimal treatment approach.
  • Risk factors for developing groin pain include
    • restricted hip joint flexibility – especially internal rotation and extension;
    • weakness in gluteal, abdominal and groin muscles;
    • excessive load from training including sharp change of direction loading and kicking loading.

Research has shown that injury prevention programs can reduce injury rates by approximately 40%. Our recommendation is for football teams to be incorporating injury prevention strategies early in a young players’ development, and throughout their football journey.

The exercises in the following video’s are packaged into 3 levels of difficulty. They are designed to help the developing footballer throughout their growth with injury protection and improved performance.

Level 1: Targeted at junior footballers under 12 years, novice footballers or people starting exercise.

Level 2: Targeted at teenage footballers or those that have completed more than 4 weeks of Level 1.

Level 3: Targeted at older teens and young adults, or those who have completed more than 4 weeks of level 2 with confidence over their control and ability.

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