Prevention the key to injury reduction in Oz

How many times have we read or heard about a footballer forced to spend a long time out of the game she or he loves due to an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or similar injury? It happens too often at community and elite level – particularly with our many female footballers.

However, discussions last week on a process to roll-out a preventative program used by some of the world’s biggest and best teams aims to help.

German, Italian and Japanese FAs are now on board with a program called FIFA 11+.

Likewise the Spanish national team, La Liga giant Barcelona, Brazil’s Flamengo and France’s Olympique Lyonnais have all incorporated the ‘FIFA 11+’ into their training sessions.

So, what is FIFA 11+?

It’s a complete warm-up program to help reduce injuries among male and female football players aged 14 years and older.

The program can be used by professionals and amateurs. Significantly, teams that performed the “FIFA 11+” at least twice a week had 30-50% fewer injured players, claims FIFA.

The 11+ includes exercises to improve lower extremity and core strength, awareness and neuro-muscular control during static and dynamic movements.

‘The program is performed as a standard warm-up at the start of each training session at least twice a week, and it takes around 20 minutes to complete. Prior to matches, only the running exercises should be performed,’ explains the official FIFA 11+ site.

And another great thing is; you don’t need specialist equipment.

That’s why FFA last week conducted internal focus groups to provide direction for the implementation of the program. FIFA 11+ experts were in attendance, too.

These included Mario Bizzini, Research Associate, FIFA-Medical Assessment and Research Centre, Dr Alex Donaldson Research Fellow Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) and Mark Jones FFA Head of Medical.

FFA's elite focus group

FFA believes consultation with key stakeholders and a collaborative approach to work together on solutions to potential barriers is important to successfully implementing this program nationwide.

Emma Highwood, FFA Head of Women’s Football and Head of Community Football, believes it is important that the ACL Injury prevention program is introduced at a community level.

“We want football to be a safe and fun environment for all participants, so implementing a program like this will enable us to be able to provide that environment,” she says.

That sentiment was echoed by Head of National Performance at FFA, Luke Casserly.

The former Socceroo defender says  the process FFA have undertaken with Dr Alex Donaldson Research Fellow Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) will enable the FFA to implement a “best practice’ program here in Australia”.

One person with first-hand knowledge of ACL injuries is Matildas head physio Kate Beersworth.

She explained that it was time for such a program to be put in place to overall reduce the impact of ACL injuries in women's football by teaching a warm up that assists with a combination of balance/co-ordination, technique, lower limb and core strength, plyometric strength and improved agility.

“To do this, coach education is the key.  Well trained coaches can deliver this exercise program in the correct way,” Beersworth says.

“Injury prevention programs will assist in retaining players in the game for longer, assisting in player development and providing a great foundation for a long and injury free playing career. 

“The more players we have playing; the more chance we have of achieving the goals set out in the Strategic Plan.

“ACL prevention programs have been proven to prevent 30-50% of all injuries.  F-MARC has done significant amounts of research in this area to produce the 11+.

“Adding this component to coach education and into the curriculum would be a positive step forward,” she adds.

Learn more about FIFA 11+here: