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American football remains the most popular sport in the USA. This is reflected in the business element of the sport, which values the NFL and its franchises at $122 billion [1]. It stands to reason then that the franchises will want to protect their prized assets, the players, as much as possible.

Despite numerous rule changes and introduction of different training techniques, injury rates remain stubbornly high, and researchers conclude that the interventions haven’t gone far enough to protect the players [2].

In this article we’re going to explore methods of preventing soft tissue injuries in American Football, leading to an understanding of the cause and therefore the solution to the problem.


Time to read: 3 minutes

Intermediate

Key Points:

  • Understanding the issue
  • Training vs. Playing
  • Preventing soft tissue injuries

Despite rules changes designed to protect the players, injury rates in American Football remain stubbornly high. In this article we look at ways to help prevent soft tissue injuries in American Football, allowing players to play as much as possible...



Understanding the issue – what type of injuries are occurring?

In the NFL there are a wide range of common injuries, with researchers investing the frequency and types of injuries suffered by the players [3] …

 

Overall, lower extremity injuries accounted for 50% of all injuries (with knee injuries accounting for up to 36%). Upper extremity injuries accounted for 30%. In general, sprains and strains account for 40% of injuries, contusions 25%, fractures 10%, concussions 5% and dislocations 15%.

 

This data is echoed in more recent studies, which show that lower limb injuries are the most common in the sport [4]. This study concluded that most of the injuries occur in the early season due to a lack of prior conditioning. This conclusion was drawn because of a statistically significant increase in injuries following a cancelled pre-season due to covid.

As expected, most injuries occur during game time. NFL players have a 41% risk of picking up a lower limb injury, based on data collected between 2015 and 2018 [5].

Training vs Playing

Across almost all sports, injury incidence is higher in competition than during training. This is generally down to a couple of reasons…

 

  1. Intensity in game play is higher – it’s faster and the impacts are greater
  2. Training is stage-manageable – the coach can control impacts, direction and intensity of training

 

There’s also the element of controlling the workload done. In a game, the players are expected to put their bodies on the line for the cause. In training, it’s permissible to hold back somewhat.

There is strong data suggesting that the playing surface also leads to increased soft tissue injury. Data across 2013 and 2014 showed that players suffered a statistically significant increase in anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament injuries pm artificial turf compared to grass [6]. This suggests that training and playing should be done on grass wherever possible.

Managing training loads is also an important preventative measure for reducing soft tissue injuries in American football. Running data is useful here, because it’s an integral part of the sport and also training. We know that managing training loads and allowing for sufficient recovery time helps to reduce injury frequency in runners [7]. It stands to reason that these findings would translate into American football too.

Research published in 2020 showed that a sudden increase in training frequency, load and intensity resulted in an increase in injury rates amongst American footballers [8]. This suggests that monitoring the workload and perhaps exposing players to a longer and more gradually progressive pre-season would have benefits from an injury reduction point of view.

Preventing soft tissue injuries – what can we do?

It’d be remiss of us to suggest that we could prevent all soft tissue injuries in American football – it’s a contact sport, after all. What we can do is reduce the frequency of them by employing tactics we’ve learned about here.

  1. Manage training loads – monitoring training intensity, frequency and impact levels can have a profound effect o soft tissue risk.
  2. Improve recovery – recovered tissues are less susceptible to injury. KYMIRA’s infrared products help to improve recovery speed and depth.
  3. Keep training and games (where possible) on grass, not artificial turf - Research shows artificial turf increases the chance of serious knee injuries.
  4. Gradually build up training – even extend pre-season to allow the body to slowly come to fitness.

By employing these strategies coaches can reduce the severity and frequency of soft tissue injuries in American football players.

Where to find KYMIRA® clothing

KYMIRA’s® infrared technology has been scientifically proven to improve performance and recovery across a variety of physical processes. These include improving circulation, tissue elasticity, strength, power and endurance. More information can be found on the science behind KYMIRA here.

The KYMIRA® clothing range can be found here. It can be worn before, during and after training and competition for maximum results.

KYMIRA Sport

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