How can we best prevent injuries (joints especially) and incorporate prehab for our players into training?
Here is the first part of a series of questions from YOU in the Britball community. And what a great question!
First off, what is prehab?
Prehab, or pre-habilitation, is a term used to describe exercise prescription for reduction of injury. Some might call this ‘prevention of injury’, however ‘reduction of injury’ is the more accurate term as we can never truly prevent injury.
How can you incorporate prehab into American Football training?
There are two ways you can incorporate pre-habilitation exercises into training.
- The warm up
The Warm Up
The warm up is an essential period prior to any training session, and so it is guaranteed that you can get a period of pre-hab into any training session.
When working with teams I always aim to include a selection of prehab and mobility exercises within a warm up. This has been key to me, as I have often don’t see the majority of players during the week and so cannot guarantee what mobility or prehabilitation work players have been doing throughout the week. With a couple of teams I have implemented a warm up at the beginning of the season and in subsequent weeks this has been lead by the team captains. This might be something you want to consider incase your therapist cannot make a training session or game one week.
Consistency is key, and a solid, regular warm up can have many benefits to the athlete.
There are a range of prehab exercises to include within a warm. These include; mobility exercises, single leg work, deceleration and change of direction drills.
Both soccer football and Rugby Union are ahead of us at present in their injury research. Both the RFU and FIFA have put together injury prevention programmes to be used as a warmup. The RFU named their programme ‘Activate’, and FIFA ‘FIFA11+’.
Activate is designed to be used 3x a week for 20 minutes at a time (2 training sessions a day & prior to game day).
Both programmes have shown a reduction in injuries across the season. My warm-ups are designed with this in mind, however I have a football focus and apply the warmup to the needs of the individual team/players.
Whilst in Israel with the GB women’s flag team, our injury count was minimal. I believe consistency in our specific warm-up had something to do with this success.
The second area you can focus your injury prevention is in indy drills.
Prior to planning your coaching session you should be thinking about the goal of this drill. ‘How will this drill improve my players?’, ‘what is the key point I want my players to take from this?’, ‘do I understand the key coaching points of this drill?’, ‘how does this drill fit into the grand scheme of things – is the extra load necessary?’.
Knowing the key coaching points of a drill is vital and so is understanding the biomechanics behind the drill. By coaching a drill incorrectly you could be putting your athletes at risk of injury.
Secondly, understanding the overall picture of the training session will allow you to tailor your drills so that they players aren’t put under unnecessary load. Overuse, chronic injuries can be just as detrimental to performance as acute injury. For example, is that Oklahoma drill necessary each week? Why risk the short and long term consequences of a head injury? Think through the real purpose of the drill you are using.
Keep warm! Quick pace football is the way forward! Asking players to stand about for lengthy periods of time while they listen to you natter on about a drill they’ve run numerous times before is only going to cause them to cool down. If the body cools down, the risk of injury increases.
Finally, before moving into your drills you should consider whether your warmup has fully prepared your athletes for the indy drill. For example, if you are to run a routes tree then have you given your receivers an opportunity to warm up using change of direction, acceleration or deceleration drills? If you’re going into contact have your players warmed up their neck musculature?
Remember, consistency is key to injury prevention!
If you have any further questions about this topic area then drop me a line.
Interested in other practical steps your club can take to manage injuries? Click here.