Why Preseason Training Helps You Prevent Soccer Injuries
Jun 8, 2022
Soccer players often sustain injuries due to muscles, tissues, and joints unprepared for a movement. Yet still, players could avoid many of these injuries by conditioning BEFORE the regular season. This post will examine the importance of preseason training and how different training protocols can prevent common injuries.
What is Preseason Conditioning in Soccer?
As its name suggests, preseason conditioning involves improving physical fitness before a season starts. Coaches will often enroll their players in fitness programs that last a few weeks to prepare for the looming regular season.
That may entail drills to improve agility and coordination or regimens to boost endurance, speed, or strength. But the ultimate goal of a preseason conditioning program is to prevent soccer injuries. It’s common among elite European teams who play long seasons, which may contribute to higher injury risk.
Research Shows Preseason Soccer Conditioning Drills Reduces Injury Risk
A 2020 study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine examined the correlation between the number of preseason training sessions and their availability per season. They reviewed 44 teams from 13 different European countries throughout 15 seasons.
They found that each team's average number of preseason training sessions stood at 30. That translated to an average of 140.6 days lost for every 1000 hours of exposure. But every ten additional sessions of preseason training reduced the average number of days lost to 22 per 1000 of exposure.
In other words, the more preseasoning training players engaged in, the less likely they were to get injured in the regular season. The lesson is that proper conditioning weeks before the regular season can keep many players injury-free.
Preseason Training Protocols
Of course, preseason training can look different from team to team. But there are some protocols that you’ll see on many teams, each of which can reduce the risk of soccer injuries. Generally, coaches will encourage players to mix these training methods for the best effect.
Strength training encompasses various exercises, including dumbbell and barbell exercises, bodyweight training, and resistance bands. For soccer players, all three can be beneficial. However, they all should boost soccer performance in some way instead of just making your muscles bigger or stronger.
Weighted exercises such as leg presses can build quad strength, facilitating speed and kicking power. But the added bulk can cushion the blows of tackles and ACL injuries. Nordic hamstring curls and single-leg raises can strengthen leg joints and improve muscle architecture, resulting in fewer injuries. And don’t forget neck exercises too - they can reduce the severity or occurrence of head injuries.
And you can incorporate variations of weighted and bodyweight squats to help build overall core strength, power, and balance, all of which help improve body control.
Many regular-season injuries often occur when players make rapid movements their muscles aren’t prepared to withstand. That is due to inefficient patterns coded into the brain. Neuromuscular drills train the brain, nerves, and muscles to move more effectively during rapid movements.
They make athletes perform better and can reduce the risk of some soccer injuries. The FIFA 11+ neuromuscular drills are a popular choice for teams at all levels and are ideal for helping them develop better body control.
Examples of Neuromuscular Drills (Based on FIFA 11+)
- The bench - Strengthens core muscles and increases core stability.
- Sideways bench - Strengthens the lateral abdominal muscles and increases core stability.
- Cross-country skiing - Improves overall muscle strength.
- Chest-passing in single-leg stance - Improves coordination and balance and strengthens leg muscles.
- Figure-of-eight in single-leg stance - Improves coordination and balance and strengthens leg muscles.
- Zigzag shuffle - Improves jumping power and technique.
- Bounding - Improves jumping power and technique.
Neuromuscular drills are excellent as isolated workouts, but they’re also great warmup exercises for practices and games.
You don’t need to wait for game time to make a habit of stretching. Even during the preseason (or off-season). Muscles can quickly get stiff and tense when your level of activity drops. Ideally, you can reverse the effect using dynamic stretching daily. These stretches increase muscle readiness and help prevent overuse and hyperextensions. They also improve joint range of motion (ROM) and muscular endurance.
Dynamic Stretches that Can Help Prevent Soccer Injuries
Altogether, these dynamic stretches make your muscles more pliable but powerful, a winning combination that helps keep soccer injuries at bay.
Preseason Training Makes Regular Season Play Less of a Pain
You probably noticed that many of the exercises listed here happen during regular-season practices and games. The key with preseason soccer conditioning drills is to start these exercises BEFORE you subject your muscles and joints to heavier and regular loads.
Remember, muscles need time to build strength, flexibility, and resilience, so it’s best to start sooner than later. Regular soccer conditioning drills before your season starts will help prep your muscles weeks before. That will help you transition more easily from low activity to high-intensity play. More importantly, your risk of common soccer injuries will likely drop as the season picks up.
Looking for more tips on soccer conditioning drills? Check out our Storelli blog for training ideas and insights.