For the past 2 years, FC Wisconsin's ECNL players have been a part of a study on maximizing performance and minimizing injury risk in adolescent athletes. The results of the study are beginning to be noticed nation-wide, and have the possibility to transform how youth athletes are trained.
Dr. Drew Watson, a sports medicine pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin is the medical professional leading the study. With a strong coaching background - Drew earned a US Soccer "A" coaching license years ago - Dr. Watson is uniquely qualified to combine the fields of medicine and sport.
The centralized coaching and management structure of FC Wisconsin's ECNL program allows the study to be implemented in a way that is nearly impossible in almost any other youth sports organization. "Our club plans sessions and periodizes physical load for our ECNL teams and players for the season, and then our staff collaboratively executes on this plan across all the ECNL age groups," said Director of Coaching Christian Lavers. "There is a high level of accountability for the staff, and for the players, in the way we plan and execute training sessions."
Through a combination of pre-season testing, in-season heart rate monitors, and daily training load and readiness monitoring with Fit For 90, the readiness and fatigue of the players is closely monitored in an attempt to maximize performance while reducing injury risk. With weekly feedback from Dr. Watson and his team, training sessions are adjusted for the club, specific age groups, and even specific players.
The results of this collaborative effort between sports and medicine is a very low injury rate, a very low illness rate, and findings on injury predictability that can help educate coaches across the country.
"We are committed to being on the leading edge of development in this country," said Lavers. "We are thrilled to be able to do this in player health, safety, and performance with Dr. Watson and his team of experts. Congratulations to him as well on the recognition his pioneering work is recieving nation-wide."
"We continue to learn more and more about the different factors that influence performance, injury and illness in these young players and are able to use it in real-time to reduce their risk and keep them on the field," said Dr. Watson. "This level of data collection and the opportunity to bridge the gap between research and practical application is truly unique in youth sports and only possible in a progressive and innovative organization like FC Wisconsin."
The full study in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine is available here.