The A.F.L has recently released a program they call “Footy First” which is a regime designed to be incorporated into the basic pre game/training warm up, with the specific intent of reducing many of the common leg injuries (groin, hamstring, knee and ankle) that occur.

We have known for some time now that static stretching of muscles (eg a 30 second hold of any particular stretch) is relatively ineffective in the prevention of soft tissue injuries. Dynamic stretching (where the muscle is warmed up and stretched out whilst in motion) has far more preventative effect than static stretches.

afl1The fifa 11+ program was designed in Switzerland in 2003 to reduce injuries among male and female soccer players aged 14 years and over. This program was desi

gned by an international group of experts, and its effectiveness has been proven in a scientific study, where it was shown to reduce injuries by 30-50%. The AFL seems to be basing its “Footy First” program on the fifa 11+ program, making it slightly more relevant to the injuries we see in football.

The Footy First program has three main components, and is designed to replace the traditional warm up:

1.       General warm up (should take around 5 minutes of the warm up to complete)

2.       Leg strength and conditioning exercises

3.       Balance, landing and side stepping skills (together with number 2 should take around 15 minutes of the warm up to complete).

Ideally this program starts in the pre season period, where players can progress through the 5 levels of strength and conditioning exercises. It is suggested that each level takes about 4 weeks (or 8 training sessions) until progression to the next level, however progressions can be made sooner if skill levels allow.

The Footy First program is summarised below:

GENERAL WARM UP (performed in every session):

a.       Group Activities

·         Jogging straight lines

·         Side to side runs

·         Carioca or Grapevine Runs (sideways running where the swinging leg alternatively places in front and behind the supported leg)

·         Backward running

·         Forward running butt kicks (flicking heel up towards buttocks as you jog)

·         Hands to ground running (reaching towards ground as though you are picking a ball up as you jog)


b.      Dynamic Stretching involving continued but controlled movement, no static stretches (see diagram on final page)

·         Calf Stretch (hands and feet on ground, flexing and extending straight and bent knee)

·         Hip rotations in standing (swinging one leg – knee bent – upwards and outwards)

·         Leg swings forwards and backwards (like kicking a football)

·         Leg swings across body

·         Walking lunges

Following this warm up, the players then proceed into the Level of exercises that is appropriate to their stage of training:

Level 1 Exercises:

Ø  Nordic Hamstring Curls (see diagram on final page)

Ø  Lying and squeezing a football between knees (bent and straight knees)

Ø  Side planks (see diagram on final page)

Ø  Balancing on one leg

Ø  Shallow squats on one leg.

Level  2 Exercises:

Ø  Nordic Hamstring Curls

Ø  Lying on side, lifting bottom leg upwards for groin strength

Ø  Side Planks

Ø  Hopping forwards from one foot onto the other foot and landing/balancing.

Ø  Hopping backwards from one foot onto the other foot and landing/balancing.

Ø  Forward hops

Ø  Backward hops

Level 3 Exercises:

Ø  Nordic Hamstring Curls

Ø  “Running Man” squats (repeated single leg squats, alternately raising each arm)

Ø  “Side plank side to side”: start in side plank, rotate to prone plank, rotate to opposite side plank (see diagram on final page)

Ø  Hopping forwards and backwards from one foot to the other continuously

Ø  Run, hop and land

Level 4 Exercises

Ø  Nordic Hamstring Curls

Ø  Lying on back, squeeze ball between knees, raise legs into “table top” position

Ø  Side plank, raising top leg off bottom leg

Ø  Run, hop, and land to the side

Ø  Running and changing direction 45® at a designated spot.

Level 5 Exercises

Ø  Nordic Hamstring Curls

Ø  Partner assisted side plank

Ø  “Side plank side to side” with top leg lift

Ø  Unanticipated changes of running direction (dodging around another player).