Injury Prevention in Youth Football Players : Training Effects and Programme Implementation

Sammanfattning: Background With 17–35% of all 14-year-olds in Sweden being active in football, injuries do occur, most frequently during match play. Based on knowledge of injury mechanisms and risk factors, different injury prevention exercise programmes (IPEPs) have been developed. In this thesis, the Swedish IPEP Knee Control was used as a model for injury preventive training.Aim The overall aim of this thesis was to improve our understanding of the effects of the Knee Control injury prevention exercise programme on sports performance and jump-landing technique, as well as exploring programme implementation and coach experiences of using the programme in youth football.Methods Studies I and IV were cluster-randomised trials focusing on the performance effects of Knee Control. Study I included four teams with 41 female youth football players (mean age 14). The intervention group used Knee Control twice weekly for 11 weeks, whereas the control group teams did their usual training. Knee Control includes six different exercises at four levels of difficulty and with partner exercises and is meant to be used during warm-up at every training session. Performance was tested using a battery of balance, agility, jump and sprint tests at baseline and follow-up at an indoor venue. Study IV had a similar set-up but included two different interventions: Knee Control and a new, further-developed version of the programme, Knee Control+, which were studied during an eight-week intervention involving eight youth football teams, four male, four female (mean age 14), with 77 players. Similar, but not identical, performance tests were used in Study IV, along with drop vertical jumps and tuck jump assessment to assess jump-landing technique.Studies II and III focused on the implementation context. Study II was questionnaire based, using the RE-AIM framework covering the reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance of Knee Control. Coaches for female youth teams (n=352), one representative of the national football association and representatives of eight district football associations responded to web-based questionnaires. Data collection was performed two years after the nation-wide implementation of Knee Control started. Study III was a qualitative study that followed up on the results of Study II. Interviews were conducted with 20 coaches for female football teams and analysed using qualitative content analysis. The interviews focused on factors that affected the adoption and use of Knee Control. All 20 coaches had experience of Knee Control.Results Limited positive effects were seen on jump-landing technique in girls, with the total tuck jump assessment score improving, as well as two separate criteria, the number of jumps accomplished during the 10-second test and additionally an increased knee-flexion angle upon landing from a drop vertical jump. No improvements on the performance tests were found in either Study I or Study IV. Both studies, however, suffered from low player compliance with the IPEPs and as a result low training dosage. No major differences in results were seen between Knee Control and Knee Control+ in Study IV.Study II showed that 91% of the responding coaches were familiar with Knee Control, they perceived the programme to be effective, 74% had started to use it, and it was fairly well maintained over time. However, only one third of the coaches used the programme every week and few used the whole programme. There were no formal policies for programme implementation and use in the district football associations and clubs. Study III showed that the coach was vital for programme use but needed social support, buy-in from players, resources and a feasible programme to facilitate programme adoption and use. When facing challenges with Knee Control implementation and use, the coaches did their best to work around these obstacles; for example, by modifying the programme content or dosage.Conclusions In conclusion, limited positive effects on jump-landing technique were seen in girls, potentially affecting risk factors for injury positively. No clinically meaningful effects from Knee Control or Knee Control+ were seen on performance tests as measured in the studies in either boys or girls. This may be related to the low training dosage. The high programme reach, perceived effectiveness, adoption and fairly high maintenance of Knee Control were positive. The modifications of programme content and/or dosage were concerning but will hopefully decrease with a more user-friendly programme.

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