I am often amazed and flabbergasted at the lack of attention coaches and players of amateur football teams give to warm-up drills. Football is the most popular sport in the world and the incidence rate of outdoor soccer injuries is among the highest of all sports injuries.
Women in particular are at a greater risk of serious injury than men - the rate of anterior cruciate ligament injuries is three to five times higher for girls than for boys. This is largely blamed on women generally having weaker muscles around the hips and pelvis which allows their knees to turn in more when running – putting extra strain on the ligaments.
The popularity of the game as well as the silly amounts of money involved have meant that loads of research has been done in an attempt to reduce football injuries. A few years ago researchers from F-MARC, the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre and the Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation collaborated and developed the FIFA 11+ complete warm-up programme.
The 11+ can reduce injuries in young female players
A group of researchers(1) tested the effectiveness of this programme on 1892 female players (aged 13-17). They found that the players whose teams implemented it were not only at a significantly lower risk of sustaining injuries, but they were specifically less likely to suffer severe injuries or overuse injuries.
What is the FIFA 11+ programme?
It is a 20 minute warm-up programme and should be completed at least twice a week before training. FIFA advises that prior to matches, only the running exercises (parts 1 and 3) should be performed.
A key point in the programme is that it has to be performed using the proper technique. You should pay attention to correct posture and good body control, including straight leg alignment, knee-over-toe position and soft landings.
The programme consists of 3 parts.
Part I: Running exercises at a slow speed combined with active stretching and controlled partner contacts.
Part II: Six sets of exercises. The exercises focus on core and leg strength, balance, plyometrics and agility. Each of these exercises also include three levels of progression with the aim to ensure that a player continually improves.
Part III: Running exercises at moderate/high speed combined with planting/cutting movements.
This programme is FREE
This programme is free to download and has been proven to work so USE IT!
Soligard T, Myklebust G, Steffen K, et al. Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2008;337 doi: 10.1136/bmj.a2469