David Gardner – AFC BournemouthDalton Harris
I am a Sports Therapist currently in my 6th season with AFC Bournemouth 1st Team. Prior to this I had a Sports Therapy internship role at Reading F.C. I studied Sports science at the University of Portsmouth and gained a Masters degree in Sports Therapy at London Metropolitan University.
So….. it is the 60th minute of a match, it is hot day in May 2005 and the pitch is as dry as a bone. I have just come off the bench to replace my teammate who has just badly fractured his wrist. 5 minutes after coming on I stupidly try a sliding tackle and dislocate my shoulder.
This day symbolises the beginning of my personal journey towards becoming a sports therapist in professional football, but it also demonstrates the rare occasion in football when a young lad, who thinks he is invincible, can become injured.
Be prepared and stay invincible(ish…..)
We all know that the best way to prepare for training or for matches is to stand around the 18 yard box and smash balls at your mate in goal…….. However since becoming a sports therapist I have learnt there are much better ways to prepare your body for the physical and mental demands of football.
These days there is a large emphasis on injury prevention across all ages in professional sports and it is no longer the case of turn up, do a quick warm up and play before the lights turn off. In most cases players will be exposed to structured movement preparation, muscle activation and strengthening prior to a dynamic warm up. This approach can be known as ‘neuromuscular training’ and has been shown to reduce youth football injuries by up to 69%. However at grassroots level serious injuries have risen dramatically in the last 15 years.
So why not give neuromuscular training a try. Most of the neuromuscular training programmes researched do not need vast, expensive equipment. Neither do they involve complicated exercises or take ages to complete.
One of the well researched neuromuscular training programmes, requiring limited equipment is the FIFA 11+ Injury prevention programme. The FIFA 11+ is a 3 stage warm up consisiting of:
- Low intensity running, dynamic movements and partner drills.
- Strength, balance and plyometrics (e.g. hopping and jumping)
- High intensity running with changes of direction.
It is recommended that this should be performed at least twice a week, with the strength, balance and plyometrics stage to be performed only prior to training sessions.
There are many types of neuromuscular training programmes, but the FIFA 11+ offers great information and advice on how to perform the exercises. Below is a couple of links:
Neuromuscular training to prevent injury is just one way of decreasing your injury risk. There are plenty of other factors that will also help, but taking 20 minutes before training and matches will dramatically decrease your injury risk, will make you stronger and who knows, maybe even improve performance.