The vast majority of sports teams will do some type of performance testing, even if only once or twice per year. This can serve to evaluate training status and the effectiveness of the previous training program. However, very few teams monitor injury rates throughout the season. Tracking injury rates provides invaluable information that can validate your current training methods or provide evidence that something needs to be changed. This is because injury occurrence can be the result of excess fatigue, poor movement quality, lack of fitness and even weakness. Tracking what type of injury occurs, where it occurs (game vs. practice, home vs. away), at what point in the game or practice it occurs (early vs. late) as well as what part of the season can all be useful in helping improve your training approach.
It is commonly thought that building strength alone will serve as a useful means to reduce injury rates. However, the majority of the research in support of this has been done in collegiate and adult populations. It is less clear how this can benefit youth athletes. A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research studied the effects of strength training in 52 elite level adolescent soccer players (males 13-14 years old) on performance markers and injury rates across a competitive season. The players were evenly split into a strength group and a control group. The strength group performed basic multi-joint movements (i.e., squats, bench press) progressing from twice per week to 4 times per week while loads progressively increased from 30-50% to 80%. The program spanned the pre-season and in-season that lasted roughly 5 months. Fitness and performance tests were carried out before, mid-way through and at the end of the program. The tests included the Yo-Yo IRT-1, 30 m sprint, T-test and various jump tests.
Both groups saw significant improvements in virtually all testing parameters at both mid-way and post-testing. However, the strength training group showed significantly greater improvements than the control group in 10/20 m sprint times, squat jump, T-test and fitness parameters. In addition, a total of 17 injuries were recorded throughout the season, of which 13 occurred in the control group while only 4 occurred in the strength group. The results of this study demonstrate that incorporating strength training throughout the pre- and in-season can result in significantly greater performance and reduce injury rate 3x more than not including strength training.
Zouita, S. et al. (2016) Strength Training Reduce Injury Rate In Elite Young Soccer Players During One Season. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Ahead of print.