Injury is something which can fill players and coaches with a feeling of dread, potentially hindering performance for both the individual and the team.
Preparing the body through conditioning, strength training, and developing power, speed and agility are all key factors in preventing injury in football, ensuring the body is primed and ready for the demands of the sport. However, preventing injury isn’t simply about physical fitness. In fact preventing injury starts before even stepping into the training session.
In this post we explore the key aspects of daily training and match routines to help lower the risk of injury taken from Complete Conditioning for Soccer.
It’s probably not news to you that getting enough quality sleep is important. It’s vital for our overall health, but also for injury prevention too.
When preparing for a match sleep should be taken into consideration. Pre-match day training should help players return to their baseline levels, to perform close to their optimal standards. This includes the management and care of all fatigue and damage the body has accumulated throughout the week.
Sleep is the body’s main way to concentrate the time and energy necessary to manage all the body’s systems to get it back to the homeostatic environment it strives to maintain. It’s necessary to stress that the importance of the prevention aspect of training so heavily overlaps the recovery processes that they need to be viewed as equally important and related. When sleep is compromised expectations of performance must be lowered because the body will not effectively recover from training. Hence why we view the preparation process from training and competition as starting with high quality and quantity sleeping habits.
Another method to prepare the body is to exist in a state of mindfulness. Players know best how they feel. Self-monitoring requires players to show a level of maturity that respects and understands the entirety of the training process and does not fixate on a day-to-day objective.
With this in mind, players experiencing fatigue accumulation or those who did not sleep well the previous night should follow the easier side of the training prescription. Players should determine early in the day, based on the prescription, where they fit into the preparedness for that workout. They should look ahead to other prescriptions in the week and determine where they can push a little more once they have had time to recover.
Players need to maintain a high degree of responsibility and accountability for their actions. The most efficient way to see development is through consistency. Players should listen to their body through self-monitoring and coach themselves through the early phases of soreness and reintegration, always striving for consistency, even if it means sacrificing training stimulus during some training sessions.
From a coach’s perspective, self-monitoring means being in tune with the players and program. Coaches should listen to their players, observe their body language, and be mindful of the annual plan.
If a dense period of competition is coming up, giving players extra conditioning is not going to elicit the best physical performance. Coaches should trust the program and be aware of aspects of the training process that challenge players technically, tactically, or physically. These challenges may result in failure, which does not always mean they are not developing.
Never sacrifice or compromise competition preparation. Everything prescribed should promote a positive performance on competition day. Under these conditions, coaches can be critical of individual and team performances.
One method of acquiring pretraining information is by asking players to complete a survey assessing their own preparedness. Surveys should be more than seven questions and the length of each individual question should be brief. Offer a scale to the player (e.g., 1-5) for a positive-versus-negative response, or yes-or-no questions. Monitor the trends longitudinally; if you notice a pattern in the way players are answering questions, then it is likely they are not answering genuinely, and the information may not be valid.
Warm-up Activities and Exercises
In preparing for a match, the objectives of training and competition need to be clearly communicated. All variables of the training process should be communicated to players so that everyone has the same expectations of the preparation process.
Once the prescriptions are communicated, players should perform the necessary preparations to achieve the objectives laid out by the staff.
On competition days, the majority of this preparation will take place during the team pre-match warm-up. Further preparation prior to that should take into consideration any limitations or soreness the players have been feeling.
The physical preparation ahead of hard training sessions is best adapted to the specific demands of the session. Large spaces in training sessions mean a higher degree of loading of the hamstrings because of the greater potential of work in high-velocity zones. Whereas smaller spaces with greater change of direction demand more of the joints and transmission of forces; therefore prevention and preparation exercises should focus on neuromuscular signalling and control.
A light training session will demand less energy from players, so it is recommended to adjust diet accordingly to meet the lower caloric demand. A lighter training session can simply mean a less carbohydrate-dense meal prior to and following training. Physical preparation should consider any limitations or soreness from previous training sessions. Mobility and flexibility exercises prior to training should address these limitations.
Finally, recovery days should be taken into consideration. For professional footballers sometimes the season lasts for 10 to 11 months. Matches are organized through different competition formats that do not complement the overall health and wellbeing of the player and can occur every 3 to 4 days. That timeframe is not sufficient for recovery and optimal preparation to perform every match day. Such a large amount of time is spent on the various aspects of soccer training, preparation, and recovery, that when the rare off days occur, players look to get away from the game.
During recovery days, players should spend time off their feet, as well as time with family and friends to reap psychological benefits. It’s recommended that players choose activities of low to moderate physical exertion and be mindful of the time spent engaged in these activities. Many players will choose to treat themselves to foods they usually don’t indulge in, but they need to be aware of this when they are returning to normal training. Players shouldn’t stray too far from their normal dietary habits during down times; they need to keep one eye on fueling for success once they return to training.
Physical fitness will always play a key role in reducing the risk of injury. However, the footballer or coach who fails to acknowledge the importance of sleep, self-monitoring and physical preparation may not be giving themselves or their players the best chance of avoiding injury.
Complete Conditioning for Soccer
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