The “old school” casual pre-game jog has been given the red card by New Zealand Football and ACC who have teamed up to launch a revolutionary new warm-up programme aimed at tackling the growing frequency and cost of injuries to players.
New Zealand Football’s Fit4Football initiative has been developed as a complete guide to match preparation, performance enhancement and injury prevention for players of all ages and level of competition.
In 2016, New Zealand Football created an Injury Prevention Specialists team who work on the guiding principle of enhancing performance through prevention.
Fit4Football is the overall enhancing performance and injury prevention programme of which the 11+ warm ups are one component of this programme.
NZF National Injury Prevention Manager Megan Crockett said the primary goal of Fit4Football is to address the increasing rate of football-related injuries.
“The number of injuries and the subsequent costs are increasing year-on-year,” said Crockett. “The latest ACC figures show there are now more than 48,000 football-related injuries each year, costing the country $36 million annually.”
Crockett said there are also significant social costs – which include time away from work, time away from sporting groups and social activity, playing with your children and there is also evidence to show that the academic performance of students side-lined from sport through injury can also suffer when they are isolated.
“The highest injury rate is now in the 15-19 age group,” said Crockett. “That reflects growing player numbers but also highlights that we’re not preparing young players as well as we need to. After all, these youngsters are the ones that we want playing, performing and aiming to be our future All Whites and Football Ferns.”
Fit4Football’s 11+ warm-up component incorporates FIFA’s 11+ programme, a 20-minute training and match-preparation routine used by many of the top club and national teams that has reduced acute injuries by up to 50 percent, and non-acute by up to 30 percent.
It involves slow to increasing speed running, active dynamic stretching and controlled partner contacts, with exercises developed to improve core and leg strength and balance.
“It’s a fundamental shift in the way we develop our youth to be good functional movers able to withstand the physical demands of football,” said Crockett. “Old warm-up and cool-down techniques like the jog and static stretch have long been known to be ineffective, but they’re still part of most players’ pre- and post-game routines.
“Fit4Football changes that mind-set and can benefit players of all ages and ability social to competitive, but our focus is on younger players especially, to help them develop new and far more effective routines and habits.”
NZ Football and ACC have partnered to build a national injury prevention and performance enhancing team, located around New Zealand in the seven Federations.
“We’d encourage anyone involved in football, be they players, coaches, referees or team managers, to get along to a roadshow near them to learn about how Fit4Football can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
“We want more people loving and playing football to the best of their ability, injury-free, for life. It’s about performing on the park, not sitting on the side-lines injured.”