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How can we best reduce soccer injury?

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Keeping players on the pitch is a big part of any team success – especially in soccer, where players being out through injury can have a big influence on results.

As such, minimising the risk of injury has been a big focus of physio and strength & conditioning work within team sport for a long time now. We know that getting stronger is a really effective strategy, as improving muscle strength increases the amount of workload our muscles can cope with.

Programs like the Football Australia Perform + program, and the FIFA 11+ program, which involve strength work as well as balance and agility training, have shown to be really effective at reducing injury – and there are links to both at the bottom of this article.

Despite this, these programs often aren’t done by many players or teams – with some of the reasons being that it takes too long, that players feel a bit sore after the strength work, and that it affects the training that they do afterwards.

So a recent study asked the question of: ‘How can we try and modify these programs, to make them more practical, yet still be just as effective?’

What the researchers did was, instead of trying to do all of the exercises at the start of training (as has traditionally been recommended), was to take the second part of the program (the strength exercise part), and encouraged players to do it at the end of training. That way, it shortened the time spent on injury prevention work, and also didn’t affect fatigue levels leading into training.

So did it work?

The answer was a resounding yes. This was a big study, where over 800 semi-professional players took part, and had really positive results. Compared to not doing the prevention program exercise, the rate of ankle sprains was down by 40%, the rate of hamstring injuries was down by 30%, and the rate of ACL injury was down by 60%.

Most importantly – more players and more teams found it easier and more practical to do it this way, and so were more likely to keep doing it and get benefit from it.

So, the key take-away point here is that just 10 minutes of strength work at the END of training can be highly effective at reducing the risk of a number of different injuries in soccer; and may be a really practical way of fitting in injury prevention work around training demands.

The Football Australia Perform+ and FIFA 11+ programs are great places to start when looking to try and implement strategies to reduce the risk of injury. Speak to your Sports physio too – these are generalised programs, and your physio will be able to also offer some really good individualised suggestions for you, as to what things you should be doing to help keep yourself on the pitch as much as possible!

Mat Prior

APA Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist

Soccer Physio Adelaide

Reference: Whalan M et al. (2019). Rescheduling Part 2 of the 11+ reduces injury burden and increases compliance in semi-professional football. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

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