Recently I was giving a talk to a group of elementary-aged girls about injury prevention in sports. My first thoughts about what to speak about went immediately to safety equipment in sports. Helmets, mouth guards, shin guards, and shoulder pads are all great pieces of equipment. They do help prevent injuries in their respective sports. Protective sports gear is definitely on the front line when it comes to injury prevention. Protective gear is the first thing that several of the girls mentioned when I asked about preventing getting hurt while playing sports. But I wanted to teach them something that they hadn’t already heard a million times and make it fun at the same time. This brought me to injury prevention through exercise.
Doing certain exercises to minimize injury isn’t something that is new. But preventative exercise is getting more attention as studies show how well it works! Having young athletes doing a specific warm-up program a few times per week can definitely lower injury risk. It can allow players to spend more time on the field and less time sidelined with an injury. Most of the exercises are easy enough that a coach can learn the program and implement it on his or her own team weekly.
Exercise for injury prevention will:
- Promote body stability and coordination (i.e., learning how to land on one foot and balance, or standing on one foot and doing a task like tossing a ball to a partner)
- Emphasize attention to other players and coaches and spatial awareness (i.e., listening to a coach call out a command and doing it)
- Teach how to fall to avoid injury (i.e., rolling on to the shoulder rather than landing on an outstretched arm which could lead to wrist and elbow injuries)
The most well-known and well-studied version of this is the FIFA 11+ (there is both a kids’ version and a version for adolescents). Some of these studies have shown up to a 50% reduction in injuries in teams that do these warm-up programs! You can go to https://www.fifamedicalnetwork.com/lessons/prevention-fifa11-kids/ to learn step-by-step exercises and print out handouts for your young athlete.
For the older athlete, you can go to https://www.fifamedicalnetwork.com/lessons/prevention-fifa-11/ to get that program. This program focuses on the older athlete and emphasizes proper jumping and landing techniques. These become more important as your athlete progresses through the teenage years. This program has been found to reduce anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. As I have discussed before, an ACL injury can often mean up to a year out of sports and long-term issues with the knee.
The kids really enjoyed learning all of the exercises that I taught them from the FIFA 11+. These exercises can be a fun way to get your kids active and also keep them safe in sports!