These days, most people usually agree that athletes should be doing some type of warm-up prior to taking the field, including sports like soccer. What is less clear is exactly what that warm-up should look like. Just jogging or doing prolonged hold, stretching is inadequate, and may actually do more harm than good.
Luckily for those in the soccer world, there has been a great deal of research dedicated to this area over the last several years. A 2015 meta-analysis from The American Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that injury prevention programs “significantly reduced injury rate ratios in adolescent team sports contexts, as compared with normative practices or control.” There are many different programs out there, but three of the more commonly used programs are the PEP program, FIFA 11+, and Sportsmetrics.
Although each program is different and certain coaches may have a preference for one over another, all have solid research backing them up. Most programs will include exercises and drills in the following areas:
- jogging, skipping, side shuffling/shuttle run
- dynamic stretching(functional movements or light stretches with short duration holds of five to 10 seconds)
- focus is placed on hip and core muscles: planks, walking lunges, etc.
- hamstring strengthening and balance drills may be included as well
- this area will work on improving how the athlete jumps and lands, both from a safety standpoint as well as to enhance performance
- encourage soft landing and do not allow the knees to buckle inward
- cutting , pivoting, change of direction drills are included
- start with slow, controlled speeds and advance as the athlete demonstrates proficiency
- during the cool down static stretching may be included (longer holds, 20 seconds to one minute) especially for those athletes with specific flexibility deficits
Overall, most programs should only take about 15-20 minutes and should be done at the start of each practice or prior to a game. They can prime the body for maximum performance and improve neuromuscular control during landing and cutting tasks, and thereby minimize injury risk.
Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Sports Therapy. Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs. He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams.