Injury Prevention.

Regular readers of this column know that probably the best way to prevent injuries is simply to improve the level of fitness of the team. I’ve written about reasons why and how to improve endurance, speed, flexibility, proper methods of warm-up and strength training. I discussed ankle and head injuries, head and muscle injuries and more.

But I think what I could improve on is specific exercises for injury prevention. Enough with the concepts-GIVE SOME CONCRETE EXAMPLES!!

The research arm of FIFA is called F-MARC (FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre) and is based in Zurich. Last year, the F-MARC people got together to prepare a manual on sports medicine for soccer. This manual has a ton of soccer specific information on fitness, injuries, and prevention.

The centerpiece of the manual is the F-MARC 11. Ten exercises and the call for Fair Play that focus in on problem areas for soccer players that, if done as a part of their regular training, should be effective at preventing some of the more common non-contact injuries in soccer (no program will prevent injuries from that defender charging in full speed with spikes up).
Last month, FIFA had a press conference to announce the manual, the 11, and a nation-wide injury prevention program for youth soccer in Switzerland as the first wide application of the training and injury prevention principles. The F-MARC directors want this program publicized to the soccer community.

I’ve changed some of their grammar, but for this most part, this is as presented by F-MARC. Posters and tapes will soon be available. After a warm-up sufficient to break a sweat, perform these exercises as a team in about 15 minutes. It’s a small price to pay for keeping players unhurt and in the game.

While there is no guarantee that teams will be injury-free because of the 11 exactly as described, there is really good information that programs such as these are very effective. So, here is the F-MARC 11.

#1- The Bench

Purpose: Strengthening of the core muscles.
Starting position: Lie on the stomach. Support the upper body with the forearms. Place the feet perpendicular to the ground. (Looks a bit like a push-up only on the forearms instead of the hands)
Action: Lift stomach, hips and knees so that the body forms a straight line from the shoulder to the heels. Elbows directly under the shoulders. Tighten the abdominal muscles and buttocks. Lift the right leg a few inches from the ground and hold for 15 seconds. Return to the starting position, relax, repeat with the left leg. Perform 1-2 times each leg. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: Do not flex the hips or let your stomach drop. Maintain that straight line from the shoulders to the heels.

#2- Sideways Bench

Purpose: Strengthening of the lateral abdominal (core) muscles
Starting position: Lie on one side. Support the upper body with the forearm with the elbow under the shoulder. Bend bottom knee 90 degrees. When viewed from above, the shoulders, elbow, hips and both knees should form a straight line.
Action: Lift the top leg and hips until the shoulder, hip and top leg are in straight line and hold this position for 15 seconds. Return to the starting position, relax, repeat on the other side. Perform twice on each side. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: Do not drop the hips or tilt the upper shoulder or hips forwards.

#3- Hamstrings

Purpose: Strengthening the hamstrings.
Starting position: Kneel down (on a towel or shirt if needed) with a straight, upright upper body. Knees and lower legs should be hip width apart. Cross the arms in front of the body. A partner pins the ankles firmly to the ground with both hands.
Action: Slowly lean forward keeping the upper body and hips straight. Thighs, hips and upper body stay straight. Try to hold this straight body alignment as long as possible while leaning forward. When the position can no longer be maintained by the hamstrings then use both hands to control the fall. Perform five times. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: Do not bend hips. Perform the exercise slowly. Body control is important.

#4- Cross-country Skiing

Purpose: Strengthening leg muscles.
Starting position: Stand on the right leg and let the other leg hang relaxed. Flex the knee and hips slightly so that the upper body leans forward. From the front, the hip, knee and foot of the supporting leg should be in a straight line.
Action: Flex and extend the knee of the supporting leg and swing the arms in opposite directions in the same rhythm as in cross country skiing. Flex the knee as far as possible while keeping the weight balanced on the supporting foot. When extending, do not lock the knee. Keep pelvis and upper body stable and facing forwards. Perform 15 times on the right leg, then 15 times on the left leg. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: Keep pelvis horizontal and do not let it tilt to the side. Do not let knee buckle inwards.

#5- Chest-passing in Single-leg Stance

Purpose: Improve coordination and balance; strengthening of the leg muscles.
Starting position: Two players face each other at a distance of about 10 feet, both standing on their right leg. Knee and hips should be slightly bent. Keep the weight on the ball of the foot and lift the heel from the ground. From the front, the hip, knee and foot of the supporting leg should be in a straight line.
Action: Throw a ball back and forth with one hand; standing on the right leg means throwing with the left arm and vice versa. Catch the ball with both hands, and throw it back with one hand. The quicker the exchange of the ball, the more effective the exercise. Perform 10 times on the right leg, then 10 times on the left leg. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: Always keep knee slightly bent. Do not let knee buckle inwards.

#6- Forward-Bend In Single-Leg Stance

Purpose: Improve coordination and balance; strengthening of the leg muscles.
Starting position: Just like exercise 5.
Action: Like exercise 5, but before throwing back, touch the ball to the ground without putting weight on it. Perform 10 times on the right leg, then 10 times on the left leg. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: When viewed from the front, hip, knee and foot of the supporting leg should be in a straight line. Keep weight only on the ball of the foot, or lift heel from the ground.

#7- Figure-Eight’s In Single-Leg Stance

Purpose: Improve coordination and balance; strengthening of the leg muscles.
Starting position: Just like exercise 5.
Action: Like exercise 5. Before throwing back, swing the ball in a figure-8 through and around both legs: first around the supporting leg with the upper body leaning forward, and then around the other leg while standing as upright as possible. Perform 10 times on the right leg, then 10 times on the left leg. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: When viewed from the front, hip, knee and foot of the supporting leg should be in a straight line. Always keep knee slightly bent and do not let it buckle inwards.

#8- Jumps Over A Line

Purpose: Improve jumping power and technique.
Starting position: Stand on both feet hip width apart, about a 1 foot to the side of a field line. Bend the knees and hips slightly so the upper body leans a little forward. When viewed from the front, hip, knee and foot should be in a straight line. Arms are slightly bent and close to the body.
Action: Jump with both feet, sideways back and forth over the line and back as quickly as possible. Land softly on the balls of both feet with slightly bent knees. Jump 10 times side to side, then 10 times forwards and backwards over the line. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: A soft landing and quick take-off are more important than the height of the jump. Spend as little time on the ground as possible. Do not let knees buckle inwards.

#9- Zigzag Shuffle

Purpose: Improve coordination and jumping technique.
Starting position: Stand at the start of the zigzag course (6 marks set 10 x 20 yds), legs shoulder width apart. Bend the knees and hips so the upper body leans substantially forward. The lead shoulder points in the direction of movement.
Action: Shuffle sideways to the first mark, turn so that the other shoulder points to the next mark and complete the zigzag course as fast as possible. Always take-off and land on the balls of the feet. Complete the course twice. Do more reps as fitness improves.
Important: Always keep upper body leaned forward with the back straight. Run quietly by absorbing ground contact with the knees, do not let them buckle inwards.

#10- Bounding

Purpose: Improve jumping power and technique.
Starting position: Stand on the take-off leg with the upper body upright. The arm of the same side is in front of the body. When viewed from the front, hip, knee and foot of the take-off leg should be in a straight line.
Action: Spring as high and far as possible off the supporting leg. Bring the knee of the trailing leg up as high as possible and the opposite arm bent in front of the body when bounding. Land softly and quietly on the ball of the foot with a slightly bent knee. Cover 30 metres twice. Bound further as fitness improves.
Important: Do not let knee buckle inwards during take-off and landing.

#11- Fair Play

Purpose: Know that a substantial amount of football injuries are caused by foul play. Observance of the laws of the game and especially Fair Play are essential for the prevention of football injuries.
Important: Play Fair!

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