Football is played over 140 countries in the world and rated as the most popular game. Over 300 million people take up football as a profession, as a leisure activity, as a fun filled game for fitness and so on. As more and more people are participating in this game, the number of injuries are also increasing. Injury takes away performance of a professional or amateur footballer by reducing his training and competition time and making the rehabilitation time longer and expensive. The administrators in professional and amateur football at times find it difficult to get the best performance out from his team because of injury problems. This reflects a negative area in the best game in the world. This probably lead the supreme body in football � FIFA to think for its prevention and to bring back the glory in this game.
Injuries in football are very common and occurs due to direct impact or due to overuse. Direct impact may result from the objects like football, sudden fall or foul, among others, by the opponents. The football at times travels at 50 miles per hour (during shooting) and in a rainy day this velocity and the wet ball may be dangerous and cause head injury (concussion) while heading it. The players should be optimally fit to play for 90 minutes without fatigue and not to get injured. The player should train at all adverse weather to prevent injuries. Sometimes the training load for footballer may cross his physical and mental limits. This causes overuse injuries and should be observed by trainers and coaches and act quickly to reverse the condition which would prevent the athlete from further injury problems.
FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Committee (F-MARC) has been doing research work for over two decades since 1994 to find out a solution for this burning problem and to protect health of all players in football which is taking away millions of dollars which otherwise could have been saved with prevention of these injuries from occurring. In 2009 they have successfully formulated a programme known as FIFA 11 + which is a complete warm up programme for footballers over 14 years of age. This programme is evidence based and after thorough research works they have found that with the implementation of this programme in training and in competition the percentage of injuries have come down by 37% and 29%. Now this preventive programme has been taken up by over 50 countries including Brazil, Argentina, most of the European countries, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, among others and is practiced by the professional and amateur players mostly because of obvious reasons.
The laws of the game and their interpretations play a great role in minimising the risk of injury. F-MARC also established that elbow to head contact constitutes a particular risk for serious injury. These results led the International Football Association Board to make an amendment to the laws of the game prior to 2006 FIFA World Cup. In addition F-MARC has addressed a number of issues like pre-participation examination to prevent sudden cardiac death in football. Also taken up issues like effect of heat and altitude, optimum nutrition, effects of fasting during Ramdan and dope free clean football.
The FIFA 11+ is a complete warm up programme with fifteen sets of exercises and offer different degrees of difficulty to prevent players from developing a tolerance to the exercises and from getting bored. Thus the programme starts off with running, followed by six strength, speed, balance and co-ordination exercises. There are three levels of difficulty for these exercises. The third part of the programme involves another running section, which finishes off the warm up. The FIFA 11+ can be completed in 20 minutes, ideally before each training session. Only the running exercises are completed before a match.
FIFA Medical Committee and F-MARC have clear goals to protect the health of 300 million football players worldwide and to promote football as a safe and healthy leisure activity and also to develop its contribution towards world health. Let us join our hands together with the FIFA movement to prevent football injuries, improve performance and make our social health even better.
(Author is Deputy General Manager of Oil Hospital, Narengi, Guwahati, Chairperson Anti-doping Commission, Indian Association of Sports Medicine, Dope Control Officer for International Dope Testing and Management and BCCI and an empaneled Sports Medicine Specialist of Asian Football Confederation).