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Injury Prevention > Introduction

It's difficult to avoid certain injuries caused by impact during football, although improved conditioning and technique may reduce the likelihood. However, a large percentage of the injuries that players sustain do not involve impact. Lower-back problems, hamstring strain, and tendon inflammation are just a few of the injuries that often result from having poor technique or weak stabilizing muscles, or from simply failing to warm up correctly.

Most soft-tissue injuries can be avoided by adhering to injury prevention strategies and a well-designed conditioning program. Prehabilitation involves strength and conditioning exercises for specific muscles and joints that help to reduce injury risks, before an injury actually occurs. Prehabilitation is sport-specific and targets common injuries and strength imbalances that occur in the particular sport.

Common Football Injuries and Prehabilitation Options

Injury Prehabilitation Option
ankle sprain balance drills, calf strengthening, correct footwear, beware uneven surfaces, proprioceptive plyometrics
hamstring tear Strengthen the gluteals and hamstrings, core stability drills.
knee pain (patella tendon) Strengthen the VMO (teardrop muscle that drops down towards the inside of the knee)
knee ligament develop a good ratio of hamstring-to-quadriceps strength e.g. squats, swiss ball hamstring curls, proprioceptive plyometrics

The following principles and drills can help to prevent injury, many of which are covered in the Injury Prevention section or other areas of Fitness 4 Football:-

  1. Take a functional approach to training that develops strength in various planes of movement by using, for example, rotational medicine ball drills, deceleration drills, and drills that mimic the movement patterns of football.
  2. Include drills that enhance muscle and joint stability, such as balance drills, core stability drills, and strength drills.
  3. Progress from a focus on stabilization to strength and power training.
  4. Incorporate fuel mix drills to help players build resistance to fatigue, which is a key cause of football injuries.
  5. Design training programs based on an informed analysis of the demands of playing football.
  6. Respect the importance of flexibility and posture.
  7. Begin each training session with appropriate warm-up exercises.
  8. Use recovery strategies such as cooling down, contrast bathing, and replacing fluids.
  9. Focus on using correct technique during all drills, such as explosive lifting.
  10. Individualize the training program and its conditioning targets and include appropriate fitness-testing protocols.
During research over two seasons, players were absent for 12,138 days and missed a total of 2,033 matches because of ankle sprains. 44% of ankle injuries were sustained during the first three months of the season, emphasising the importance of pre-season conditioning. Br J Sports Med 2003;37:233-238
Emphasis on injury prevention will help players avoid their worst fear - getting injured.
Visit the Football Fitfiles for 100s of Football Fitness drills
Core stability training should be an integral part of preparation for all players, and is a vital cog in the prevention of many injuries such as lower back pain, groin injuries and hamstring strains.