There are two primary objectives of strength and conditioning programs for team sports.
- Improve performance
- Reduce injury potential
The latter objective often gets overlooked and underestimated by players, coaches and parents for the former. Furthermore, the composition of many training programs often neglect the physical qualities more associated with injury reduction in favor of strength or power exercises. To be clear, becoming more strong and powerful can help reduce injury in its own right. However, several other training parameters including training to improve balance and mobility can likely offer further benefits.
Recent work by Owen and colleagues (2013) from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrates the effectiveness of a training program specifically designed to reduce injury potential. A team of over 20 male adult professional soccer players from the Scottish Premier League were followed over two consecutive seasons. During the first season, an injury prevention program was implemented twice weekly throughout the season. The follow-up season served as a control where no specific program was implemented. The protocol included a circuit of 4 stations consisting of:
- Mobility: Forward/Sideways Leg Swings, Hurdle Step-Overs, Cat/Camel, etc.
- Functional Strength: Nordic Hamstring Curl (Partner GHR), X-Band Walks, Bird-Dogs, Single Leg Deadlifts, Split Squat, etc.
- Balance: Single Leg Balance Volley, Single Leg Airex Balance Volley, Single Leg Trampoline Balance Volley.
- Core stability: Planks, Side Planks, Med Ball Rotational Throws, Med Ball Overhead Throws, etc.
The results revealed that significantly less soft tissue injuries occurred during the intervention season compared to control (44 vs. 22). A multi-component circuit performed twice per week throughout the season appeared to significantly reduce the incidence of injury in the current study. Incorporating mobility drills, balance and core stability training in addition to basic functional strength exercise certainly appears to have a protective effect against injury. It’s certainly worth considering incorporating a similar routine with your athletes in effort to keep them healthy and strong throughout the season.
Owen, A. L., Wong, D. P., Dellal, A., Paul, D. J., Orhant, E., Collie, S., … & Owen, A. (2013). Effect of an Injury Prevention Program on Muscle Injuries in Elite Professional Soccer Running title: Injury prevention in professional soccer. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(12): 3275-3285