When coaches receive even a small amount of preventive training education, they can be as effective as athletic trainers at lessening poor movement behavior and preventing injuries in young soccer players, according to a recent study.

“Whether it’s a health care professional or a head coach who implements the program, it doesn’t appear to make a difference, as long as the coach is properly trained,” said Luke Pryor, PhD, an assistant professor at California State University, Fresno, lead author of the study, published recently in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

“But, what this study also highlights, is that if you continue doing this program through multiple seasons—as a normal part of your training—you’ll see greater benefits in those athletes who have the worst movement control and highest risk of injury,” adds Pryor in a media release from Drexel University.

In the study, conducted by researchers at Drexel College of Medicine, the University of Connecticut and California State University, Fresno, 12 youth soccer teams were divided into one of two groups.

During the fall season, the first group had athletic trainers lead the teams through a preventive training program before every practice, while the control group teams were instructed to perform their normal warm-up.

Two weeks before the spring season, coaches of all teams—including those in the control group—attended a preventive training program workshop and were instructed to implement the training as a team warm-up prior to practices and games.

The athletes were graded before and after each season using a Landing Error Score System (LESS), which evaluates specific jump-landing tasks in order to predict injury risk. According to the results, the preventive training program enhanced movement technique for the majority of soccer players, regardless of whether the athletes played on teams that employed athletic trainers for preventive training warm-ups.

There was also no difference between score improvements between the fall and spring seasons, suggesting that well-trained coaches can be as effective as professionals at implementing injury prevention warm-ups, the release explains.

“We now know that if we use a shorter-duration prevention program for coaches (10-15 minutes) can help reduce the risk of injury, and coaches are willing to do them,” states Thomas Trojian, MD, a professor in the College of Medicine and chief medical officer for Drexel Athletics, in the release.

According to the study, when examining only participants classified as “high injury risk” prior to the season, the athletes who received preventive training during both the fall and spring season were three times more likely to improve injury risk classification than their peers. Because both the players and the coaches were exposed to the professional athletic trainers, the researchers do not know whether the benefits resulted from repeated bouts of injury prevention training or from the professional instruction.

“The bottom line is that we need to keep our children safe during sport. The prevalence of ACL is just too high in youth and professional athletes,” Pryor notes in the release. “It’s widely thought that if we target the youth populations, we may be able to correct the poor movement technique that precipitates poor movement habits in professional careers.”

[Source(s): Drexel University, Science Daily]