While players and staff in professional football teams are keen to try to prevent injuries, there is a limited understanding about what works and how to implement prevention programmes.
While there is overwhelming evidence regarding the benefits of injury prevention programmes (like the 11+), injury rates in professional football continue to increase. While it is possible that this is due to the intense demands associated with playing football at an elite level it is also possible that this increase might be related, at least in part, to a lack of effective injury prevention processes at professional clubs.
In this study players, coaches, fitness coaches and physiotherapists from four professional football clubs were invited to participate in an online survey. The survey asked about perceptions relating to lower limb injuries and the value of injury prevention programmes (including the 11+).
Study participants overwhelmingly expressed their concern about the high susceptibility to lower limb injuries in professional football, as well as the impact that these injuries have. While there was a general feeling that injuries could be prevented, there was a lack of understanding about the implementation of these programmes. Most of the staff members surveyed believed that injury prevention was the responsibility of the playing group – rather than the coaches and team medical staff. This contrasts with data which has demonstrated the importance of the coach for fostering compliance. The uptake of the 11+ programme was very poor (only 2% of respondents reported their team doing this) despite it arguably being the best validated single injury prevention strategy in football. Based on the feedback from this sample the length of the programme and a lack of variation appeared to be reasons for the poor uptake.
The results from this study show there is a high level of interest in the prevention of injury in professional football. It is likely that current injury prevention programmes need to be modified to address the needs of professional players and staff. Further education might also be useful.
1 O’Brien J and Finch CF. Injury Prevention Exercise Programs for Professional Soccer: Understanding the Perceptions of the End-Users. Clin J Sport Med 2017;27:1–9