Effective Prevention of Injuries in Football
Football is the most played sport in the world, and, whether you’re a professional footballer or just having a kick around with mates, football injuries are unfortunately expected. While football injuries can range between minor sprains or mild concussions to serious trauma injuries requiring surgery, having a football injury prevention program in place can make all the difference when it comes to medical incidents on the pitch. This article will cover how to prevent football injuries and discuss some of the most common football injuries and prevention tips and equipment. Learning the techniques and tools to avoid injuries during a football match or training session will keep your players fit and match-ready for longer.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
A well-structured warm-up is widely regarded as one of the best football injury prevention exercises. Professionals advise that a warm-up of at least 20 minutes is needed to ensure your players’ muscles and joints are ready for the physical activity football requires, whether before a practice session or a big match. And, after any form of exercise, a cool-down routine is essential to protect your team from injury once the game is over.
A typical warm-up shouldn’t start with full-power kicks of the ball into a goal, but instead should be well-constructed to warm up the body, raise the heart rate and improve blood flow, then gradually stretch out muscles ready for the action ahead.
Experts recommend incorporating jogging and sprinting into the early part of the warm-up. Including cardio in injury prevention exercises for football is vital. Some activities to keep players engaged in movement could include:
- Dribbling relays
- Circle passing
- Side shuffles
- Zig-zag running
Incorporating dynamic stretches (stretching on the move) is also vital to ensure all the body’s muscles are stretched out and prepared for the mobility and flexibility needed during a game. Focusing on the lower limbs and torso for football injury prevention is important. Exercises to incorporate dynamic stretching into a warm-up could include:
- Leg swings
- Walking lunges
- Side steps
- Knee raises
- Buttock kicks
- Straight leg kicks
- Heel kicks
- Calf Stretches
- Spine Rotations
Starting your warm-up session with lower energy and gradually building up the speed and intensity is the safest and most effective way to prepare your team for a match and reduce the risk of injury during play.
When blood is pumping, players’ muscles are relaxed and well-oxygenated to better handle the intense running, tackling and jumping required during a football match. Where vigorous activity, physical contact, falls and over-extension of joints are likely to occur, a solid warm-up can minimise the potential damage and reduce the risk of significant injury.
The post-match cool-down is an essential part of a good football injury prevention program. The ideal football cool-down should incorporate some low-intensity cardio exercises and leg stretches to ensure the calves, glutes, hamstrings, and thighs are relaxed and stretched out after intense activity.
Using the Right Equipment
A principal element of any football injury prevention program is to source the right equipment. Equipping your players with the right gear to train, build strength and play the sport, and reduce the risk of injury can significantly impact your team’s success, keeping them fit and free from unnecessary injury.
Wearing the right footwear is essential for the prevention of injuries in football. Football boots must fit well to protect the many delicate bones in the foot, as well as support the ankle joint. Cushioning in the sole of the boot will minimise the impact of landing a jump, falling, or tackling an opponent. The heel of a football boot should stabilise a player’s ankle while protecting the foot from twisting too far in the wrong direction, which could result in a sprain, tear, or even a fracture. The FA stipulates that a football boot is a required piece of kit for all professional footballers. It’s well worth investing in a good, well-designed, high-quality football boot to best optimise performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Shin guards are a common and practical way to protect players from injury, helping to prevent fractures and sprains and reduce the impact of bruises or swelling. The FA’s Law 4 (IFAB Laws of Game 2021-22) stipulates that all professional football players should wear shin guards that are “made of a suitable material to provide reasonable protection”. Shin guards can be secured underneath socks using sports tape.
Strapping joints such as the wrist or ankle with sports tape can be highly effective in preventing football injuries. Good sports strapping supports and protects digits and joints from bending out of place and sustaining an injury when impacted during football.
Sterosport offers a range of sports tape—the most common choice for footballers is Zinc Oxide Sports Tape. We also offer online courses on sports taping so you can learn how to best support your team before a match. We also cover how to tape a wrist for football in our blog.
If you aren’t sure which type of sports tape you need, get in touch with us at Sterosport. If you’re a sports rehabilitator, you can also book a free consultation where we’ll provide you with a free sports tape sample pack worth £30.
Football players often wear knee support sleeves or structured football knee braces; injury prevention can be aided by limiting the range of movement of a player’s knee joint.
Incorporating sports prehabilitation equipment such as foam rollers can offer many benefits, even when used before a football training session or match. Manchester City and Arsenal professional football teams use our Backballer foam roller in their training programmes to prepare their players’ muscles for the strain of a football match.
Foam rollers can also be used in injury recovery and rehabilitation to improve circulation, manage inflammation, and ease joint and muscle tension.
Resistance bands can be built into training programs and warm-up routines to offer increased strength building and muscle stretching ahead of a match. The stronger a player’s muscle groups, the less likely they are to sustain an injury. Whether used to improve core stability or foot agility, resistance bands can enhance a player’s range of motion and strengthen their muscles in order to withstand collisions, fast sprints or high kicks of a ball during training and matches.
Blazepod Training Kits
Blazepod offers dynamic and versatile training kits to improve your players’ performance, stamina and reactions for when they’ll need them most during a match. Blazepod products offer reflex training for players to train independently or compete during a practice session. Blazepod workouts are designed to keep players moving between flashing pods, such as dribbling a ball or quick relays. Improved fitness, stamina and reflexes can equip a football player with the strength and reactions required to bounce back from impact or avoid injuries altogether.
Football Injury Prevention—How To Prevent Football Injuries
Take a look at our recommendations for the most common football injuries and prevention techniques.
How To Prevent Head Injuries in Football
Head injuries in football present a unique challenge for any football injury prevention program. Heading the ball during a match is often critical in achieving a goal or intercepting a ball from the opposition, but it can cause concussion in football players, added to by contact with opponents’ shoulders or elbows when competing for the ball. Football is a high-energy contact sport, so players can collide or fall, suffering an impact on their heads.
To reduce the risk of concussion in minors, the FA changed the guidance for youth football practice sessions in 2022—The FA now advises under 11s not to perform headers during training sessions, and teen and adult teams are advised to reduce header coaching as a priority in all practice sessions.
Despite this, heading the ball is not prohibited during football matches, so it still presents the risk of head injuries and concussions. If a player has sustained a head injury, always err on the side of caution and remove them from play when there is any doubt that they have sustained a concussion. It’s also worth taking a look at the FA concussion guidance to treat a player safely in the event of a collision or fall.
How To Prevent Hamstring Injuries in Football
One of the most important ways to prevent a hamstring injury in football is to warm up properly. Wearing thermal clothing during warm-up sessions can help with this.
Well-structured physical training and strength-building before and in between matches can also improve the strength of the hamstring, helping to reduce the potential damage from sudden sprints or high kicks during a game. Remembering to focus on building strength in all other leg muscles, as well as the pelvis and lower back, is important to ensure the hamstring is supported and protected from strains or tears.
Incorporating regular deep tissue sports massage into your team’s injury prevention program can also be hugely effective by identifying weak points, tender areas and tightness in the leg muscles.
In the unfortunate event of a hamstring injury, take a look at our blog on How to Treat a Pulled Hamstring for information on the best treatment.
How To Prevent Knee Injuries in Football and How To Prevent ACL Injuries in Football
Knowing how to prevent knee injuries in football can be incremental to the longevity of a player’s career. Some knee injuries can require surgery and months of rehabilitation and can even result in long-term damage that will keep a player off the pitch for life.
An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury, such as a tear or rupture, is a particularly serious injury commonly reported by football players. Knowing how to prevent ACL injury in football should be a number one priority as the ACL supports the structure of the entire knee joint and maintains the functions of the connected leg muscles. ACL injuries usually occur when a player has over-twisted or over-extended their knee, so caution when jumping or tackling is essential during play. Despite the best efforts, ACL injuries are still a high injury risk for football players. If you’re in any doubt about the extent of a knee injury, take a look at our blog to see how to spot and treat an ACL tear.
A high-energy warm-up that incorporates dynamic stretches before all practice sessions or matches is vital to prevent knee injuries, including ACL injuries. Focusing consistently on building knee strength in all training is critical, as is improving the strength of all other leg muscles. A weak thigh muscle, for example, will have an impact on the stability of the knee joint and its connective tissues. Maintaining neuromuscular control over your leg muscles and knee joints will reduce the risk of knee injury by preventing it from stretching or twisting in ways that could lead to a serious injury.
Some players wear knee pads to reduce the impact of a fall or collision, while players who are recovering from previous injuries or have reported weakness in the knee area are often seen wearing supportive knee braces. Strapping the joint with sports tape can also be effective in protecting the knee joint from over-twisting or stretching out of alignment.
How To Prevent Ankle Injuries in Football
Wearing well-fitting and supportive boots is the first step to reducing the risk of an ankle injury in football.
A good warm-up and structured training program between games are essential in preparing the ankle joint and foot muscles for heavy use. Football injury prevention exercises such as toe curls, one leg balances and calf raises are especially useful in building ankle strength which can reduce the risk of injury during a match.
Many football players use Zinc-Oxide sports tape to protect and support the ankle joint from over-extending or twisting out of alignment. Ankle sleeves or ankle braces can also be effective in supporting the joint when running, tackling or jumping during a game, reducing the risk of injury.
The severity of a football ankle injury can vary from a mild twist and sprain to a serious fracture or breakage. We cover how to treat ankle sprains in our blog. If a player can’t support their weight on the injured ankle and is in severe pain, they should be immediately assessed by a medical professional to support their football ankle injury recovery.
Minimise Damage with a First Aid Kit
While we can make every possible effort to prevent injuries in football, the sport’s high intensity and physicality will, unfortunately, result in injuries.
Being equipped with a first aid kit and appointing a trained first aider for every practice session or match is vital when taking care of your team. Check out our blog for the best football first aid courses you can take to keep your players safe.
Of course, first aid training is always best accompanied by a fully-stocked football first aid kit. We cover the best football first aid kits and their contents in our blog, as well as how to treat the most common football injuries in case of emergency.
Recovery Before Returning to Play
Football is an intense, physically demanding sport. After sustaining a football injury, most football players will need to take some time away from the game to rest, heal and recover fully. It’s widely known in the sporting world that returning to the game too soon after an injury can have serious consequences, often resulting in even more serious injuries and longer recovery times.
The NHS recommends the RICE Method: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate for most overuse injuries, even if they’re classed as mild. More serious trauma injuries from football, including muscular tears and broken bones, can often lead to players being off their feet for several months, sometimes undergoing surgery, with extended courses of physical therapy and rehabilitation.
The length of time a player will need to take off to recover fully will vary dependent on the injury, its severity, the player’s age and fitness level, and if any historical injuries have been impacted.
If you’re not sure how best to support your players after an injury or are hoping to improve their recovery rate, you could benefit from a partnership with Sterosport. The partnership offers access to our unique resource, the Injury Rehab Network, which provides continuous professional development for football coaches, players, trainers, medics, and physiotherapists. Built to optimise fast recovery, the network provides support and expert advice on how best to take care of your team in the event of injury.
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