Mick Quinn: The way forward – if walking football is to be a sport for everybody to play together…
Mick Quinn is a sports therapist, walking football facilitator and keen evangelist for our fantastic version of the beautiful game. But despite being very enthusiastic and vocal about the benefits of taking part regularly in walking football, he sees problems on the horizon for our game and wants action taken now…
So now that we are starting to reap the rewards of regular exercise with Walking Football, where does the next step take us?
Most of our regular participants will begin to feel the benefits with reported weight loss, increased mobility, improved balance or even medical improvements like lower cholesterol or reduced blood pressure. The “feel good” factor cannot be overlooked and neither can the fact that most of us now have an increased social circle of friends and something to look forward to.
If you suffer from high blood pressure or type II diabetes there are medically researched documents from studies in Scandinavia proving that playing football for one hour, twice a week can render the drugs unnecessary and make your heart feel 10 years younger.
There is also proof that men with prostate cancer are at risk of brittle bones as a side effect to their treatment, but a couple of hours a week of football training can negate the side effect of the treatment and strengthen their bones.
There are many unquestionable positive points to playing regular walking football.
This increased fitness and mobility can also bring a negative aspect into our regular training sessions as players start becoming quicker and moving faster and the “walking” part of the game becomes more like jogging. Most clubs will experience this at some time and this is when it is imperative that the organisers or committee enforce the rules regarding one foot being on the ground at all times and reducing the force of the tackling. The game has to be slowed down for safety reasons, whatever rules you decide to play to.
I believe one group is actually campaigning to clarify the walking rule as having the front leg straight when it makes contact with the ground? This may be good form for Olympic race walking, but concerning football in medical terms this is leaving you at risk of a broken leg, anterior cruciate tears or a catalogue of serious injuries…
It is impractical to play any form of football and keep it “non-contact,” there will always be some accidental coming together when challenging for the ball. This will be more frequent in the clubs who decide to play “multi touch” rules as there will have to be some sort of attempt to move the ball from an opponents. “Three touch” rules reduce the need for forced tackling as you can strategically block your opponents’ way to goal by clever positioning until they are left with no option other than to pass to an opponent.
As we are all aware there is no real governing body for walking football in spite of self-appointed groups making these claims. There has to be clinical medical reasoning behind the safety aspect of the game to allow our participants to carry on playing into their later years. I believe one group is actually campaigning to clarify the walking rule as having the front leg straight when it makes contact with the ground? This may be good form for Olympic race walking, but concerning football in medical terms this is leaving you at risk of a broken leg, anterior cruciate tears or a catalogue of serious injuries, which will probably end your playing days forever.
The FA as the governing body for association football are in the best position to take on the responsibility for running a safer version of our sport. And we all should support them here before our game becomes so fragmented and unrecognizable that it fades away as quickly as it appeared. And, critically, we must all run our sessions of walking football, under guidance from the FA, with safety (as far as is humanly possible) and therefore enjoyment being both the first and last priorities above all else – to ensure that our game is for everyone to play together safely, no matter what sex or age.
BSc (Hons) MSST Dip ST