Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a preseason physical training programme that taught landing and falling skills in improving landing skills technique and preventing injury in junior elite Australian football players.
Methods: 723 male players who participated in an under 18 elite competition were studied prospectively in a non-randomised controlled trial over two consecutive football seasons. There were 114 players in the intervention group and 609 control players. The eight session intervention programme taught players six landing, falling, and recovery skills, which were considered fundamental for safe landing in Australian football. Landing skills taught in these sessions were rated for competence by independent and blinded assessors at baseline and mid-season.
Results: Evaluation of landing skills found no significant differences between the groups at baseline. Evaluation after the intervention revealed overall improvement in landing skills, but significantly greater improvement in the intervention group (z = −7.92, p = 0.001). Players in the intervention group were significantly less likely (relative rate 0.72, 95% confidence interval 0.52 to 0.98) to sustain an injury during the season than the control group. In particular, the time to sustaining a landing injury was significantly less for the intervention group (relative rate 0.40, 95% confidence interval 0.17 to 0.92) compared with the control group.
Conclusions: Landing and falling ability can be taught to junior elite Australian football players. Players in the intervention group were protected against injury, particularly injuries related to landing and falls.
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Published Online First 18 August 2006
Competing interests: none declared
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