Football is probably the most popular sport in the world.
There is no need for equipment apart from a ball and it can be played almost everywhere. This leads a lot of people, especially recreational and amateur footballers, to minimise or ignore conditioning and prevention.
Injuries in football can be acute or due to overuse. Common injuries in are:
- Groin injuries (adductor and psoas-related groin pain)
- Ankle sprains
- Knee injuries (ACL, MCL, meniscal tears, patellofemoral pain)
- Stress fractures
But what do we mean by “Injury prevention”?
- Primary prevention: preventing injuries from occurring in those with no history of injury.
- Secondary prevention: the practice of trying to prevent re-injury.
Primary prevention can be achieved with a good multimodal warm-up programm, such as the 11+ Fifa Programme. This 20-minute program has been specifically designed to prevent football injuries and includes a combination of running drills, strength and balance exercises.
Stretching is one of the most popular ways of warming-up and thought to be helpful in injury prevention, however it is almost absent from this program. The reason behind this is the lack of scientific evidence showing stretching as an effective measure to prevent injuries. On the other hand, eccentric strengthening seems to be substantially more effective in primary and even more in secondary prevention.
Exercises such as the Nordic Hamstrings, reverse Nordic and Copenhagen Adductor exercises have proven to be effective in preventing hamstrings, quadriceps and groin injuries in footballers.
Other factors to consider in injury prevention:
- Playing surface
- Equipment (shin pads, appropriate boots, mouthguards, etc…)
It is also important to consider our fitness level, amount of exercise and load experienced in the previous weeks and months before getting into intense exercise. Sudden spikes in load are one of the most common causes of overuse injuries in adults, such as tendinopathies or muscle injuries. A gradual exposure to load is advisable after a prolonged period of inactivity or reduced physical demand, such as the lockdown phases we experienced in 2020-2021.