Off Season Injury Reduction for Football

TAGS: injury reductionf, quick, flip, off season, football, Mark Watts

What is a Quick Flip?

  • Taken directly from elitefts™ Training Logs or Q&As
  • Opinionated
  • Unedited

Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in this country. The violent, physical nature of the game played at high velocity is responsible for attracting so many viewers. It is also the reason that physical development is so imperative for football players. It is one of the few sports that cannot be played year-round, but must be trained year-round in order to be competitive. No other sport places off-season training at such a high level.

There are two ultimate goals for any off-season training program:

  1. Enhance athletic performance
  2. Decrease injury potential

In other words, training to improve performance on the field and to stay as healthy as possible should be the main two goals of every program.

The off season is not only a crucial period for developing players, team development is also as important. Creating a competitive culture with a tenacious work ethic in the off season is just the beginning of improving as a team. Developing leaders within the team, ensuring accountability with teammates, and providing a setting that facilitates competition should be the cornerstones of the off-season program.

To compete at the highest level possible, coaches must commit to instituting a strength and conditioning program that will improve the overall physicality of the football program. This will not only keep a team healthier, but also enable that team to practice at a much more intense level of a more consistent basis.

Needs Analysis

Before writing any program or prescribing any set, rep, or percentage, all coaches should conduct a needs analysis. The two major components that need to be analyzed are the demands of the sport and the characteristics of the individual athlete.

Football is one of the most physically demanding sports in this country and it is important to understand the movement patterns, the energy systems utilized, and the most common injuries in football players. Another key attribute that can further complicate this process is the number of different positions in the game of football and the variety of the demands of those positions.

The second phase of a needs analysis is identifying the individual player’s training age, history of injury, movement analysis, muscular imbalances, and baseline performance testing.

Pre-Habilitation: Reducing the Potential of on the Field Injuries

There has been an exceptional amount of research recently on concussion prevention programs for athletes. The combination of more stringent baseline testing and return-to-play protocols, along with more emphasis on specific training regimens, has served to protect our athletes. Head and neck training has been proven to not only reduce the chance of catastrophic head and spinal injuries but it has also been proven to reduce the chance of concussions. By strengthening the muscles that control the movement of the head, athletes are able to withstand greater forces upon impact during a game or practice.

Although ACL injuries can be eight times more likely in female athletes, ACL prevention protocols can help reduce the chance of not only ACL and other related knee injuries but also the occurrence of hamstring pulls (tears) and all other non-contact lower extremity injuries. Coaches can incorporate specific exercises such as posterior chain exercises to address glute and hamstring weakness, hip abduction to reduce knee valgus and internal rotation of the knee, and finally drills for neuromuscular control.

Wear and tear on the entire shoulder girdle is a forgone conclusion in the game of football. One method of reducing the chance of shoulder injuries is to address muscular imbalances. Specifically, an off-season program should address weakness in the upper back and posterior shoulder girdle by way of increased scapular retraction and external rotation.

Force Training and Armor Building

Strength training has multiple benefits for a football player. The two most obvious are increasing maximal strength and increasing muscular hypertrophy; both are imperative for football players at every position. Organizing strength training by movements and not muscles can assist in developing the overall player and curtail muscular imbalances that can lead indirectly to injuries.

By creating an exercise pool, we characterize strength lifts into four variations for upper and lower body:

Lower Body

  • Double Leg Push (Knee Dominant)
  • Double Leg Pull (Hip Dominant)
  • Single Leg Push
  • Single Leg Pull

Upper Body

  • Horizontal Push
  • Horizontal Pull
  • Vertical Push
  • Vertical Pull

Training for maximal strength can improve a player’s performance. Consequently, increasing muscle mass, or ‘Armor Building’ as Coach Dan John states, can help football players withstand the physical nature of the game.

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