Blog Sports

Football Injuries: Establishing a Sound Return to Play Protocol With Data

Returning to the field after after the most common football injuries is critical for athletes. It requires careful evaluation and consideration. 

Player tracking technology is emerging as a valuable tool in decision-making, enabling coaches and medical staff to make informed judgments on players’ readiness to resume play.

Football injuries are common, but with the help of sports data, coaches and athletic trainers establish better return to play strategies.

It starts by assessing progress and recovery through performance tracking metrics, so teams can ensure a safer and more effective return-to-play process.

Determining the optimal moment for an athlete’s return to the playing field is challenging and involves risks. Football coaches face the potential consequences of prematurely reintroducing a player, resulting in prolonged sideline periods, even if the athlete is mentally prepared to handle previous workload levels. 

However, leveraging performance data and benchmarks as guiding indicators can benefit coaches and athletes substantially. Utilizing performance data as a tool to make informed decisions regarding the readiness of athletes to resume play can provide all parties with peace of mind.

Download Return to Play Guide

This is a headshot of Eric Donoval from the University of Wyoming.

It’s great to have baseline numbers on athletes and accurate, objective information to see how we can appropriately track progression during rehabilitation training. Whether it’s a load of practice, total distance or percentage of top speed.”

Eric Donoval, Director of Sports Performance - Football, University of Wyoming

Common Football Injuries

A football player is injured while making a tackle during a game, but having a sound return-to-play protocol helps get players back on the field safely.

Return-to-play protocols are guidelines that aim to ensure players’ safety and proper recovery after suffering specific injuries. These protocols are typically followed by sports medicine professionals, team doctors, and coaches to determine when a player is ready to return to full participation in football activities. 

The specific protocols may vary depending on the severity of the injury and the individual player’s condition, but some common types of football injuries with return-to-play protocols include:

  1. Concussion: Due to the potential seriousness of head injuries, concussions have strict return-to-play protocols. Players must undergo a gradual, step-by-step process that involves symptom monitoring and clearance from a healthcare professional before returning to contact practice and games.
  2. Ankle Sprains: Return-to-play protocols for ankle sprains usually involve a series of rehabilitation exercises, strengthening, and balance work to ensure the affected ankle is stable and strong enough to withstand the demands of football activities.
  3. Hamstring Strains: For hamstring injuries, players often follow a progression of exercises and functional drills to regain strength and flexibility in the injured muscle before returning to full training and matches.
  4. ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Tears: ACL tears require extensive rehabilitation and often involve a lengthy recovery process. Players must complete various phases of rehabilitation to regain stability and strength in the knee before being cleared to return to play.
  5. Groin Strains: Return-to-play protocols for groin strains involve a step-by-step process of gradually increasing the intensity of training and ensuring that the player has fully recovered before returning to full contact.
  6. Fractures: Depending on the type and location of the fracture, return-to-play protocols for fractures typically involve allowing enough time for the bone to heal properly and undergoing rehabilitation to restore strength and mobility.
  7. Muscle Tears: Like other injuries, muscle tears require progressive rehabilitation to ensure the injured muscle is strong enough for football activities before the player returns to full participation.

It’s important to note that return-to-play protocols may differ based on the specific guidelines of governing bodies, individual teams, and advancements in sports medicine. Additionally, medical professionals play a crucial role in evaluating the player’s progress and determining a safe return to play. 

Sports analytics also contributes valuable insights to the equation. 

Coaches can now save 20 – 30 minutes each practice session by using the only GPS football tracker that has a fully automated workload. No manual steps needed. No wires. No cables. 

Learn More

Establish Return To Play Benchmarks

When a football player comes back from injury he typically goes through a return to play protocol.

Although every team is different, you can use five general benchmarks to establish a return to play strategy using sports data and analytics. They are:

  1. Assessing Progress and Recovery
  2. Objective Evaluation
  3. Reducing the Risk of Re-injury
  4. Individualized Approach
  5. Collaborative Decision Making

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Assessing Progress and Recovery: Performance tracking technology provides objective data on an athlete’s physical performance during recovery. Metrics such as speed, acceleration, deceleration, and direction changes can be monitored and compared over time to gauge progress. By tracking these metrics, coaches and medical professionals gain valuable insights into players’ physical capabilities and can assess how much they have regained their pre-injury form. 

Objective Evaluation: Subjective assessments alone may be prone to biases and personal judgments. Performance tracking metrics objectively evaluate an athlete’s physical readiness to return to play. By relying on data-driven insights, decisions regarding a player’s return can be made based on concrete evidence rather than solely relying on subjective opinions. 

Reducing the Risk of Re-injury: Premature return to play can significantly increase the risk of re-injury. Performance tracking metrics help identify any lingering physical deficits or limitations, allowing coaches and medical staff to address them before clearing the player for competition. The risk of reinjury can be minimized by closely monitoring the data and ensuring that the player has fully recovered and regained their required performance levels. 

Individualized Approach: Every athlete’s recovery journey is unique. Performance tracking metrics enable a tailored approach to the return-to-play process. By monitoring individual progress and comparing it to baseline data, coaches and medical staff can create customized rehabilitation programs and adjust training intensity accordingly. This personalized approach ensures that each player is optimally ready to return to the field. 

Collaborative Decision Making: Performance tracking metrics facilitate collaborative decision-making between coaches, medical professionals, and athletes. By providing objective data, all stakeholders can have informed discussions about the readiness of the player to resume play. This shared decision-making process fosters trust communication and ultimately enhances the overall safety and effectiveness of the return-to-play process.

Make Sports Data Part of Your Strategy

A football player wears a player tracking device that records sports data and helps establish a return to play strategy in the event of even the most common football injury.

Making return-to-play decisions based on performance tracking metrics revolutionizes how athletes recover from injuries. By assessing progress, reducing re-injury risks, and enabling personalized approaches, performance tracking technology empowers teams to make more informed and safer decisions. 

Embracing this data-driven approach enhances the return-to-play process and optimizes long-term player health and performance.

Interested in learning more about our GPS-based technology supporting coaches and athletes with return-to-play training strategies? Visit our PERFORM GPS Pro page for more information. 

Or watch our demonstration. Our sports scientists recorded a demonstration that you can see by clicking the link below. It’s the first step you can take towards embracing the power of player tracking to elevate your team’s performance on the field.

DOWNLOAD DEMONSTRATION VIDEO

More stories

Coaches who use a data-driven hockey software get better insights to make decisions.
What Data-Driven Hockey Software and Puck Data Can Do for Coaches and Players

The power of data in ice hockey is eye-opening. Analytics are enhancing player performance, strategic decision-making, and training development. But those aren’t the only ways data-driven hockey software is reshaping the game.

IMU data is collected during indoor sports lake handball, basketball, and volleyball to manage player workloads.
What Does an IMU Sensor Track in Elite Handball?

Handball players move fast and put lots of stress on their bodies. But more coaches are discovering that using the most-used load management system in sports helps to keep them on the court and playing their best for longer periods.

an athlete gps tracker is used by coaches to monitor how well a player is performing in many outdoor sports.
What Kind of Data Does a GPS Tracker for Football Players Provide?

Technology has become an integral part of enhancing player performance and reducing injuries. One such example is the GPS tracker for football players. But what kind of data does it provide? And what does this information tell coaches and players?

Paul Koier is with the UNC Charlotte 49ers Sport Performance Staff working with the women's basketball and women's tennis teams.
The Connection Between Basketball Data, Point Spreads, and Sports Performance

When it comes to women’s college basketball, every edge counts, both mentally and physically. This ensures the best possible outcome on game day. Even if it means using the daily line as motivation.

Ice hockey advanced statistics provide a level of detail about a player that you can't get from a box score.
Are On-Ice Skating Tests Essential for Coaches Who Evaluate Hockey Players?

On-ice skating tests are often used to evaluate essential performance attributes in competitive-level hockey players, including agility and speed. A recent study provides insights for coaches, that may help them pick the best tests and exercises to assess hockey players.

Eric Donoval is the director of sports performance for the football team at the University of Wyoming.
How Coaches Balance Football Analytics and Coach’s Intuition When Making Player Decisions

The interplay between hard data and human intuition in football is a delicate dance. Eric Donoval, the Director of Sports Performance for the University of Wyoming football team, provided insightful commentary on this intricate balance on a recent episode of The Xtra Edge” podcast.

Why Integrating Match and Training Data is Critical for Football Coaches

More and more coaches are taking advantage of the powerful combination of match data and GPS-based training data. This fusion of information is providing unprecedented insights into player performance, team dynamics, and game strategy.

GPS football tracking sensors are worn by players as a coach watches a dashboard that displays performance metrics.
How Coaches Are Unlocking Football Players’ Potential with GPS Tracking Insights

Technology’s influence on football is undeniable, particularly with the expanded use of GPS tracking. It plays a major role in painting a more comprehensive picture of individual players and overall team performance, leading to improved outcomes. And now it’s easier than ever for coaches to use. 

Dalton Knecht attended the NBA Combine after finishing his playing career for the Tennessee Volunteers of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference.
What's the One Thing 2024 NBA Draft Combine Leaders Have in Common?

The NBA Draft Combine underscores the pivotal role of data-driven performance metrics in preparing athletes for high-stakes competitions. But there’s a commonality among the players who performed best during the strength and agility drills this year.

Dimitris Itoudis, one of the winningest coaches in EuroLeague history and uses basketball analytics to aid his decision-making.
Dimitris Itoudis is Mastering EuroLeague Basketball with Data-Driven Coaching

Dimitris Itoudis is one of the winningest coaches in EuroLeague basketball history and renowned for his strategic prowess. But he also exemplifies the marriage between traditional coaching wisdom and modern data analytics.

American football analytics are helping players plan better offseason workouts.
How Analytics Can Help Improve Collegiate Football Workouts

The offseason is a crucial time for college football players to improve their skills, strength, and conditioning. But how do you put together a training program that is as efficient as it is effective? Here’s a surefire way to start.

a recent study looked at the effectiveness of plyometrics workouts for handball players.
Researchers Uncover the Power of Plyometric Workouts for Elite Handball Players

A group of researchers set out to assess the impact Plyometric training might have on improving vertical jumps (and other performance metrics) of handball players at the elite or national level. Here’s what they learned.

In addition to being the Head Strength and Conditioning coach for Heroes Den Bosch, Coach Rik van Waes is also a physiotherapist.
Data-Driven Approach Fuels Coach’s Return-to-Play Protocol!

Injury recovery is a critical aspect of sports, and it’s where data can make a significant impact. As Rik van Waes, the Head Strength and Conditioning for the Heroes Den Bosch professional basketball team, puts it, Returning to play after an injury is one of the major things that data can contribute to.”

REWE Final4 Breaks New Ground with Cutting-Edge Handball

Each year, thousands of handball fans converge at the REWE Final4, while millions tune in from home. Alongside the Handball Bundesliga, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Except this year. 

A study found Olympic derived strength training is good for women's volleyball players trying to improve their jump height.
Study Reveals: Olympic-Based Strength Training Enhances Handball Skills!

Imagine the power and agility of an Olympic athlete combined with the strength and endurance of a handball player. That’s exactly what a recent study set out to explore. The goal? To unlock new levels of performance for women handball players.