Summer soccer leagues either have or are coming to a close, while high school and “Rep” league teams begin developing their systems. Yes, autumn has almost arrived, and as we transition from one season to the next we carry with us our persistent, nagging injuries — our personal signs of sporting seasons past.
Most people recognize ankles, knees, and hips as areas with the most potential for injury while playing soccer, and accordingly most people have some kind of warm up routine to prevent problems from occuring. I hear a lot from patients (and teammates) about stretching the legs and hips, doing dynamic warmups to increase blood flow, or using light running as prevention for injury. But there is one program used internationally that I rarely hear about, and it can be used either as a team or an individual — the FIFA 11+.
FIFA 11+ — What is it?
The FIFA 11+ is a warm-up program developed by F-MARC (FIFA Medical and Research Centre) with the goal to provide a complete program that reduces injuries during soccer for males and females 14 and older. The program is sectioned into three parts — parts 1 and 3 are running exercises, while 2 focuses on core balance, strength, and agility — with an emphasis placed on correct performance, not speed of completion. In particular, knee-over-toe position, body control, and soft landings are highlighted.
The program is recommended to be completed at least twice weekly (so maybe one game and one practice?), and takes just 20 minutes to complete. Only parts 1 and 3 are suggested before playing matches, while all three components are completed before practices.
Does it work?
Easily the most important question here: and the answer appears a strong YES. For example, one study in Switzerland found that over a four year period, injuries during games decreased by 17% and injuries during training decreased by 18% after implementing the FIFA 11+. In particular, non-contact injuries (not colliding with other players) were reduced 27% — more than one quarter! — for teams using the FIFA 11+. This is important because non-contact injuries are where the most improvement should be noted, since warm-up programs can prepare us for our movements, but will struggle to simulate random collisions with other players. Furthermore, another study notes that of players with high compliance to the FIFA 11+ program, a 35% injury risk reduction was noted.
Use it! Playing soccer with fewer injuries makes us more effective, it more enjoyable, and allows us to have more fun. Even just incorporating the running components (1 & 3) before a recreational game could make a significant difference in all of these ways — and since most people have some form of organized (or unorganized) warm-up routine already, it doesn’t require a huge shift in mentality before playing a match.