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INJURY PREVENTION
 
INTRODUCTION
 

Preventing injury is a major concern for both the player and the club they represent. Equipment, playing surfaces, inadequate or over-training are often involved in causing injuries. Players must be educated so that they understand both how injury can occur and how it can be prevented. The following describes the factors involved in preventing injury.

 
ERGONOMIC FACTORS
 

Ergonomic factors such as playing surfaces should be examined before the game. Poor uneven surfaces can lead to injuries such as ankle sprains and cuts if objects have been left on the pitch.

Correct footwear for different types of surface and weather help reduce risk of injury. For example, it is a good idea to wear moulded studs on hard ground. Chronic overuse injuries may occur from playing on certain surfaces. This can be prevented by gradual adoption to a new surface (correct footwear and adapting movement to the surface).

Blisters are commonplace during mid-season and towards the end when grounds are hard. Bath your feet in potassium permanganate dissolved in water, clean your feet then apply surgical spirit to the areas vulnerable to blisters. Vaseline can also be applied to reduce rubbing between the shoe and the foot. It is advisable to buy new footwear ahead to gradually break them in and not at the last minute.

Infections such as athletes foot are often fungal in nature. Always clean and dry feet well after bathing, especially between the toes. Try to wear footwear such as flip-flops as much as possible to let your feet breath and also in communal bathing places to prevent the spread of infection. Avoid in-growing toenails by regularly checking your nails and keeping them short. Cut nails square and file away any sharp edges.

Shock absorbent shin-pads must always be worn and objects such earrings and necklaces removed or covered so as not to cause injury. Some players can suffer from instability of the ankle joints. Taping and bracing can be employed (doctors and physiotherapist can give further information).

Goalkeepers should wear protective knee and elbow pads for diving as well as shin-pads. It may also help to wear protection built in to tracksuit bottoms around the hip area.

Use only plastic coated balls. Once the ball's water resistant qualities are lost, replace the ball. The coach should use the appropriate sized ball for the age and gender group of players. Ensure both permanent and portable goals are securely anchored to the ground and the posts maybe covered with protective padding. Dismantle, remove or secure portable goals to a permanent structure after use.

Players must always be correctly hydrated prior to and during play. If the coach deems the temperature too hot or cold then play should not take place. Otherwise players must wear warm appropriate gear such as tracksuit bottoms. Sun cream can be applied to protect during hot and humid conditions.

Players should be vaccinated against tetanus and a record kept. They must have good general hygiene and use their own playing kit.

Finally, Coaches should undergo regular re-accreditation and education updates to ensure they have the latest information about health and safety methods.

 
WARM-UP & COOL DOWN
 

One of the most important parts of the training process and which is also vital in injury prevention is the warm-up period. This prepares the body for subsequent exercise and is divided into two different phases: General warm-up and a Sport-specific warm-up. Not only is the duration of the warm-up important but the content as well.

The General warm-up should include gentle rhythmic jogging or callisthenics slowly increased in intensity. The player should have a light sweat and increased pulse-rate before moving onto static stretching exercises. A team warm-up can as well help the psychological preparation of players.

The Sport-specific phase consists of exercises specifically designed for the game, e.g. jumping, changing direction, wind-up sprints (where the player gradually increases speed until maximum speed is attained). The goalkeeper should have their own program. A player should be extremely careful if shooting at goal during the warm-up.

Finally, warming down or cooling down as it is often known can help reduce muscle stiffness. Slow jogging for about 10-15 minutes is sufficient as well as stretching. This is a good time to undertake stretching exercises as the muscles are warm.

Visit our specialised section for more detailed information on warming-up/cooling down.

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