Injury-prevention programmes are widely used by professional teams and players. What each team does in this space, however, varies greatly – and is often not evidenced based. As a result, it is hard to be certain regarding the effectiveness of individual clubs’ strategies.
A good example regarding the delivery of injury-prevention strategies in professional football relates to the prevention of hamstring muscle injuries. These injuries are one of the few complaints which are occurring more frequently in the UEFA Champions League. This is despite there being compelling evidence that eccentric training can substantially reduce the risk of this injury.
- Professional players are different
- It is possible that injury-prevention programmes that have been demonstrated to work in recreational and semi-professional football players do not work in professional players. The demands of the professional game are clearly higher.
- Increasing physical demands
- At the same time that we are seeing an increase in the risk of hamstring muscle injuries, we are also seeing an increase in the physical demands placed on elite players. Players in professional leagues around the work are running faster, further and more frequently than ever before. As a result, it seems likely this will increase the risk of injury.
- Injury-prevention programmes are performed poorly
- A recent study has looked at the use of eccentric strengthening programmes in the UEFA Champions League. They found that very few clubs utilised evidence-based eccentric strengthening programmes.
- All of the above
- It is likely that the true reason for the increasing frequency of hamstring injuries in professional football relates to all of the above factors. Professional players certainly work harder than lower-level or recreational players and, as a result, are more at risk of injury. Compliance, however, is also an important factor. It can be hard to convince elite coaches and players to change their practices. As a result, clinicians working with professional teams must work very hard to implement best practice protocols.