Professional football has been America’s favorite sport to watch for 30 years now, according to ESPN; and with over 1,088,000 high school football players in the 2012-13 season, football is now the most popular sport to play, as well. However, with the high participation level also comes a high injury rate.
As with most sports, Football requires cardiovascular (CV) endurance. However, it’s different in that training requirements vary depending on the athlete’s position on the field. For linemen, training should include aspects of strength, power, agility, and muscular and CV endurance. For the remainder of the positions, training should include power, CV endurance, agility, and speed. All positions on the field should include exercises and drills that require movement in all directions including front/back, side-to-side, and diagonal. Strength training sessions should take place 2-3 times a week while conditioning and field work/agility should take place 3-4 times a week.
Specific Training: Linemen
Start all training sessions with a warm up that includes running (5-10 minutes) and dynamic stretches.
Continue with conditioning and agility drills that mimic drives, for example zig-zag runs, 40-yard dash, etc.
Include strength training exercises that incorporate increasing strength and power, with all your major muscle groups. Bench press, push-ups through a hand ladder and plyometric box jumps are good exercises to perform.
Specific Training: Backs
Like your teammates, start all training sessions with a warm up of running 5-10 minutes and dynamic stretches.
Continue with workout sessions that include exercise focusing on power and plyometrics, and strength through your legs and core.
Other sessions should include conditioning with sprint exercises incorporated with short rest periods. These exercises should focus on acceleration and deceleration in all directions.
To help prevent injury, make sure you practice these safety tips:
Always have an athletic trainer present at practices and games. Do not play without permission from a trainer with expansive medical knowledge of football injuries.
Use only up-to-date and properly fitting equipment. New helmets will help protect you from serious head injuries, new padding can minimize fractures, and properly fitting shoes will help prevent sprains and strains.
If you are injured, do not try to push through your injury. Always consult a medical professional before you resume playing.
Warm up and stretch before and after you play.
Participate in a conditioning course to strengthen your muscles, particularly ones statistically prone to injury.
Consult with your coach or athletic trainer about ways to prevent overuse injuries like stress fractures and tendonitis.
Have a physical examination at the start of the season to make sure you’re healthy to play.
Hand & Wrist
• Finger fractures
• Wrist sprains
• Wrist tendonitis
Leg & Knee
• Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries
• Knee sprain
• Medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears
• Meniscal tear
• Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) injuries
• Shin splints
• Stress fracture
The body parts with the highest frequency of injury were the knee (25.8%), shoulder (14.2%) and hand/finger (10.3%).1
The most common injuries were fracture (38.2%) and ligament sprains (25%).1
Football accounts for 47% of all high school sports-related concussions.2
Catastrophic injuries, including deaths, permanent disabilities, neck fractures, and head trauma, are 3 times more prevalent in high school football players than in college players.3
Roughly 15% of football players who sustain a concussion that caused them to lose consciousness return to playing on the same day.4
Football injuries can range from minor sprains and muscle pulls to serious or even fatal head injuries. While injuries are likely to occur when playing contact sports like football, you can help mitigate the risks by taking preventative measures. Know the causes and symptoms of common injuries and inform a medical professional immediately if you do sustain an injury.
Remember to always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. If you have any type of persistent pain, be sure to see a doctor.
1 Cory J. Darrow et al., “Epidemiology of Severe Injuries Among United States High School Athletes: 2005-2007,” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 37 (2009): 1798-1805.
2 “Sports Concussion Statistics,” HeadCase Head Health Management System.
3 Barry P. Bowden, MD. Et al., “Catastrophic Head Injuries in High School and College Football Players,” American Journal of Sports Medicine 35 (2007): 1075-1081.
4 "Statistics on Youth Sport Safety,” Southwest Athletic Trainers’ Association.