As we move through our Return to Play roadmap, Bev Analuwa – BAFA’s National Programmes Lead Therapist – covers the key points on injury prevention as part of a safe return, in partnership with Sterosport.

As a reminder, you should consult BAFA’s latest guidance on Return to Play before you plan any activity. All updates and resources are available on the Covid-19 resources page of the BAFA website.

While BAFA affiliated clubs in England can now return to activity with immediate effect, lockdown easing continues to move at a different pace in Scotland and Wales, so please follow the advice relevant to your location.

Injury prevention

As there has been limited football in the past year, increase in exercise should be gradual to ensure a safe physical return and reduce the incidences of injuries.

Strength & conditioning should include strength (weights, circuits, isometrics and bodyweight exercises), endurance (jogging, cycling and skipping), agility (cone/ ladder work) and proprioceptive (balance) training. This can also be done prior to returning and outside of training sessions. Mobility and flexibility drills can also be included.

Return to training should be gradual, with a minimum of an 8-10 week programme with progressive duration and intensity of strength training (if not already doing so) and field training. If possible, a programme should be put in place which only progresses to the next stage when it is safe to do so.

As a guide, training load and volume should not be increased by more than 10% per week.

Players should also ensure that they are recovering adequately outside of training sessions with rest periods and active recovery (walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates, stretching etc).

The most important factors for recovery are good sleep and nutrition.

Nutrition should involve a varied and balanced diet with adequate hydration pre, during and post training.

For exercise preparation and recovery – a warm up will help with physical as well as mental preparation, gradually increasing heart rate and focus. A cool down helps with gradually reducing intensity and decreasing heart rate as well as reducing post exercise stiffness by stretching.

In terms of injury management, if you do sustain an injury, the Protection, Rest, ice, Compression, Elevation (PRICE) protocol should be adopted, and players should not return to training too quickly without the appropriate rehab.

BAFA’s partnership with Sterosport, a new arm of Steroplast Healthcare, has been established to help sports clubs and participants to turn setbacks into comebacks. And the partnership offers BAFA members discounts on essential first aid products and sports tapes, enabling clubs to provide safe American football and keep participants moving.

With the discount code BAFA20, members can get 20% off Steroplast products at www.sterosport.co.uk.

BAFA trainers/physios use Steroplast products for the medical requirements of the national programme.

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