By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
As football season is in full gear, many athletes have not competed at high intensities for some time. Some of the most common injuries in the physical sport of football include concussions, hamstring, ACL/MCL and shoulder dislocations, and clavicle fractures.
It is essential to bring forward injury prevention techniques and tactics to ensure athletes are protecting their bodies.
Proper Tackling Technique and Falling Techniques
Dr. Gail Sawa, a physician at the Sport Manitoba Clinic, stresses that following the fundamentals of proper tackling and falling techniques is critical in preventing concussions and further injuries.
The Safe Contact tackling technique, brought forward by Football Canada, highlights making contact with the chest and front shoulder while keeping their head up. For a powerful tackle, this technique also enforces the use of the hips and hands. Not only does this technique ensure increased safety, but it also increases defensive turnovers. Football coaches are prompted to follow the Safe Tackling reverse progression module, which demonstrates the fundamental skill before breaking it into separate components (pre-contact, finish, strike, profile, shimmy).
Learning proper falling techniques in football is also essential to prevent injuries. Rather than landing on “hard” and small surface areas of your body, like the elbow, wrist, hip, or shoulder, try landing on “soft” and large surface areas of your body, like the side of your bum, lower back, or back of your shoulder. By landing on a larger surface area, the force of the impact is further spread, resulting in a reduced risk of injury.
Working on Spatial Awareness
You may have heard your coach yell, “keep your head up”, in other words, they are encouraging you to be aware of the space around you. Keeping your head up also includes:
- Knowing where your players and the opposition are
- Having an idea of what you want to do with the ball when received, and
- Always being ready for the next play without thinking about it.
By practicing drills that enhance spatial awareness skills, your ability to use your peripheral vision and awareness of surroundings will increase, which will lead to avoiding injuries and collisions.
Glazier Clinics provides an excellent example of a spatial awareness drill for coaches to implement into their practices plans.
(source: Glazier Clinics)
Body Equipment Fit
Dr. Sawa also emphasized ensuring proper equipment fit plays a prominent role in injury prevention – especially concussions, shoulder dislocations, and clavicle fractures. Football players should wear all the proper and regulated equipment. All equipment should be worn during games AND practices.
For more information on how to guarantee a proper fit, click here!
Proper and Well-Fitting Helmet
Before you even begin trying on helmets, it is imperative to make sure that the helmet has a current NOCSAE certification stamp and warning label. The general fit of the helmet should be snug, with no spaces between the padding and your head. The helmet should not slide around on the head when the chin strap is in place. There are many inconsistent sizes of helmets when it comes to brands, so it is important to check the sizing manuals. Proper fitting helmets will help prevent the chances of a severe brain or head injury.
Where to Buy New and Used Football Equipment
Football Canada recommends that athletes purchase the best equipment that is available to them. The best does not always mean the most expensive, but should be fitted carefully to the individual. It is crucial to maintain equipment as you grow. Compared to a life jacket, you need to change sizes according to your height and weight as you grow.
Play it Again Sports has a great variety of new and used football equipment.
Plyometric Training for Preventing Ligament and Tendon/Muscle Injuries
Plyometric training, or jump training, includes power-building exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in the shortest time. Although these types of movements are predominantly used in athlete training, everyone can benefit from them.
Plyos are a muscle contraction while lengthening/decelerating (eccentric), which helps improve the development of explosive power for sport. If performed correctly, it can also help in injury prevention.
The majority of acute injuries come from the result of landing, not jumping. This may seem a little silly, but taking the time to train with proper alignment and landing positioning is necessary for athletes to prepare themselves for awkward lands in games.
Officials and Coaches: Be Aware of Concussion Signs and Protocols
As important as it is for the athletes to be aware of concussion signs and protocols, it is also critical for officials and coaches to understand the signs, symptoms, and what to do if a concussion occurs. Sport Manitoba provides an excellent resource taking you through what a concussion is/what happens, how they occur, symptoms, whom to tell, screening, prevention, and returning to play. Check out Sport Manitoba’s concussion resources.
For more information regarding injury prevention, contact Sport Manitoba Clinic or Sport Manitoba Performance: