Background A protective effect on injury risk in youth sports through neuromuscular warm-up training routines has consistently been demonstrated. However, there is a paucity of information regarding the quantity and quality of coach-led injury prevention programmes and its impact on the physical performance of players.
Objective The aim of this cluster-randomised controlled trial was to assess whether different delivery methods of an injury prevention programme (FIFA 11+) to coaches could improve player performance, and to examine the effect of player adherence on performance and injury risk.
Method During the 2011 football season (May–August), coaches of 31 tiers 1–3 level teams were introduced to the 11+ through either an unsupervised website or a coach-focused workshop with and without additional on-field supervisions. Playing exposure, adherence to the 11+, and injuries were recorded for female 13-year-old to 18-year-old players. Performance testing included the Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT), single-leg balance, triple hop and jumping-over-a-bar tests.
Results Complete preseason and postseason performance tests were available for 226 players (66.5%). Compared to the unsupervised group, single-leg balance (OR=2.8; 95% CI 1.1 to 4.6) and the anterior direction of the SEBT improved significantly in the onfield supervised group of players (OR=4.7; 95% CI 2.2 to 7.1), while 2-leg jumping performance decreased (OR=−5.1; 95% CI −9.9 to −0.2). However, significant improvements in 5 of 6 reach distances in the SEBT were found, favouring players who highly adhered to the 11+. Also, injury risk was lower for those players (injury rate ratio, IRR=0.28, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.79).
Conclusions Different delivery methods of the FIFA 11+ to coaches influenced players’ physical performance minimally. However, high player adherence to the 11+ resulted in significant improvements in functional balance and reduced injury risk.
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