After several years of research and scientific validation in a large study in Norway, the 11+, F-MARC’s complete warm-up programme designed to reduce football injuries, has been officially launched in Spain. The home of the current European and world champions will become the first country to fully implement this practice countrywide.
To this end, an information day was held at the headquarters of the Spanish Football Association (RFEF) in Madrid on Saturday 1 October, when the programme of exercise was presented to training staff and doctors, who will function as programme instructors in their respective regional academies. “Scientific studies prove that this series of exercises significantly reduces the incidence of injuries in footballers,” Dr Jiri Dvorak, FIFA Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC), told course attendees. “Now we’re relying on you to disseminate it. For us, you’re the most important team,” he added.
“I firmly believe in this programme,” said RFEF President Angel Maria Villar-Llona in his welcome address. "Anything that can help us improve football is welcome. This is specifically aimed at grassroots and amateur football, and we’ll be making a conscious effort to apply it in every corner of our country so as to reduce the occurrence of injuries."
After the presentation of the scientific data and an explanation of the theory behind the exercises by F-MARC’s Dr. Astrid Junge and Dr. Mario Bizzini, it was time for the course attendees to don their sportswear to learn each of the 11 exercises and their different difficulty and progression level. A group of experienced physiotherapists from Zurich took charge of teaching the trainers and doctors who, under a warm autumnal sun in Madrid, practiced the programme steps that they themselves will shortly be teaching in their respective regional academies.
“The particular structure of Spanish football will enable this programme to expand rapidly and efficiently towards the grassroots,” said Gines Melendez, Director of the RFEF’s National Coaching School. "Nowadays, professional players are acutely aware of the importance of proper warming-up, and the youngsters in the national age-category teams have been taught this by their clubs. Therefore, the people we want to reach with this programme are those playing amateur football – the most modest segment of the game, where the benefits of professionalism are lacking and where the 11+ can have the greatest impact and benefit."
Injuries in the aforementioned category not only result in medical problems, they can also have significant financial repercussions in terms of treatment costs and working days lost. For example, studies on this phenomenon in Switzerland have estimated that in groups where the first version of the programme has been applied, there has been a 15% reduction in expenditure on football injuries.
The 11+ is a standardised and easy-to-apply warm up routine for all levels of the game, producing results that are both effective and verifiable. “It’s a very interesting programme that will be very useful for teams who don’t have professional physical trainers,” opined Juan Carlos Martinez, trainer of the Spanish national under-age categories.
In the coming months, a timetable for the implementation of the programme will be put in place, and FIFA instructors will be collaborating with the RFEF and giving courses at the RFEF’s regional academies. This way the programme will be brought to every part of Spain and reach those at the base of football’s pyramid.
Dr Helena Herrero, Head of Medical Services at the Mutuality of Spanish Footballers, will continue the task of gathering data on the incidence of injuries in the sport in Spain. Within two years, this data will form the basis of a first report detailing the impact the 11+ programme has had on Spain during this implementation phase.