Attentive sport fans will have noticed an increase in the amount of injuries suffered by players over the last month or so. We’ve blogged recently about how quickly returning to high intensity sports, which require impact, sprinting and change of direction tasks isn’t the best idea – doing so after a long layoff where training has been impacted is the perfect recipe for injury. This is reflected in the most recent injury data, with small injuries like grade one muscle strains but also bigger injuries like ligament ruptures seeing a significant increase this season already. That can be expected to increase further over the next few weeks in the AFL in particular, as the league is fitting in four rounds of games into three weeks. Geelong for instance, will play 4 games over the course of 14 days. A massive ask for players who are currently struggling with playing one game per week.
Lately we’ve started to see this echoed in the clinic. Recreational sport has returned and with it, we’ve seen an influx of acute soft tissue injuries, from grade one muscle strains to ACL tears. Depending on the severity of the injury, you can miss a week of action or be heading for surgery and a year off sport. So what can you do to reduce your injury risk? Avoiding a quick return to sport from a long hiatus is a good start, as is following a thorough training program and preseason which can certainly set you up well heading into a season.
There is an expanding body of research in this area, which has seen several injury prevention programs developed and implemented across various sporting codes. One of the most popular is the 11+ program which was initially developed by FIFA for use by elite soccer players. It has since been adopted by many different sporting codes as it has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of sustaining a number of different injuries.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in an injury prevention plan like the 11+:
- TRunning and dynamic mobility drills – straight line jogging, backwards running, hip openers and change of direction work are all great drills to warm up prior to a game.
- Strength exercises – plank variations, lunges, copenhagen adductor exercises and nordic hamstring curls are a few options to target common areas of injury.
- Plyometric and balance exercises – vertical jump and lands (double or single leg), lateral jumps with single leg landing and single leg medball passes with a partner are some options to sharpen your neuromuscular control.
Injury prevention programs like the 11+ are easily implemented, requiring only basic training and can be completed without specific equipment which removes cost as a barrier for amateur clubs. If your club doesn’t have an injury prevention program, have a word to them to see if you can get one implemented, or otherwise take it upon yourself to go through a program in order to reduce your injury risk on the field – it may just save you from a dreaded ACL injury and the extensive rehab that comes along with it!