I have discussed the importance of injury prevention in sports frequently on this blog and on my show. In particular, I’ve stressed programs like the PEP Program for decreasing ACL injuries in female athletes, especially soccer players.
In recent years, FIFA created a program of warm up exercises to try to decrease injuries in sports. One specifically for soccer players, the FIFA 11+ has been shown to reduce the risk of injury by about 40%, including the risk of knee injuries, lower extremity injuries, overall injuries, and severe injuries.
But can these programs decrease injury rates in other sports?
In May 2012 issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Umile Giuseppe Longo et al present the results of a study where they administered the test to elite male basketball players. They randomized teams to either an intervention group that would do the exercises all season or a control group that trained as they normally did.
The exercise program replaced the normal warm-up routine for the teams in the intervention group. All of the exercises were performed before each practice, and the running component was used before games. In general, the program consisted of various running exercises (straight ahead, hip out, circling, etc.), strength, plyometric, and balance exercises.
The authors found that the FIFA 11+ program did decrease overall lower extremity injuries, training injuries, acute injuries, and severe injuries. Interestingly, unlike the results with the FIFA 11+ in soccer, they found no statistically significant decrease in knee injuries, ankle injuries, and overuse injuries in the basketball players who used the FIFA 11+ program. One could claim that the lack of a significant reduction in knee and ankle injuries is a limitation of the program for basketball, but the researchers point out that there were fewer severe knee and ankle injuries in the treatment group.
This study should be encouraging for basketball players, parents, and coaches. I have repeatedly stressed the importance of any efforts to prevent sports injuries, including injuries in basketball. Sports medicine orthopedic surgeons can certainly treat injuries with arthroscopic procedures, but if we can prevent these injuries and subsequent surgeries from happening in the first place, that is a preferable outcome.
It appears we still have much to learn and implement with respect to injury prevention programs. Over time, we will learn to better customize these programs to different sports and athletes. But any program that only involves replacing normal warm-up exercises for exercises that can prevent injuries has to be considered.