The mind writing cheques the body can no long cash…
Now that we have all rekindled our passion for kicking a football and started to enjoy the new lease of life this has offered us, it is time to give serious consideration to the good and bad effects this has on our health…
We may feel we are still young at heart but as ageing physical specimens we will find recovery from minor injuries a bigger challenge than before and therefore we have to take all available steps to lessen the chances of picking up injuries.
As mature people we all have a right to decide which version of the rules suits our own individual clubs and enables us to enjoy our weekly sessions. There are numerous (usually unqualified) opinions of how this game should be perceived, but the most important issue to remember is that it MUST have our safety and welfare as the priority. The following medical Empirical evidence should have a bearing on the rules.
“Firstly there should always be a CPR qualified first aider present at every session. Medical forms must be completed and screened to allow players to participate.”
“The first aider needs to know if the player collapsed in front of him has a pre-existing heart condition or if he has slipped into a diabetic coma.”
The playing surface where possible should be 3G and played to touchlines, not enclosed walls or cages. As well as these surrounds being a potential collision hazard, the game is usually too physically intense due to the ball being in continuous play. It is also recommended that the matches are six a side with the recommended pitch size at 28m x 38m. Five a side is more physically demanding than the six a side game.
The game should be three touch and played to crossbar height. Studies have shown three touch football will lessen tackling by 60% and also makes the game more inclusive and enjoyable for players with lesser skill. The game should be played with minimal contact although football is a contact sport and accidental collisions will occur. There should be no excessive use of upper body strength or physical obstruction. Slide tackling and over robust challenges or barging are an offence. Although mentally we feel young when we are playing football, we have to remember or bodies have aged and cannot handle the stresses of an over-physical game. The normal rules and bookable offences of small sided football should be applied, therefore you may receive yellow or red cards for punishable offences.
The sport should be graded as all other sports are to meet the needs of the participants. Therefore for competitions it should be categorised into groups of:
- Male only aged 50 years and over
- Male only aged 65 years and over
- Female only
- Disability and physically challenged
A fifteen year age gap between the 50-65 year groups is a difficult enough physical challenge for the younger minded 65 year old players and after 65 years of age the body will struggle to adapt to the age gap as it deteriorates. Men of around 75 can probably compete with men of 65 but will struggle against 60 year olds. If we split it into over 50s, over 60s, and over 70s, there will usually not be enough players available to make up an over 70s section.
The age ranges are another safety precaution. Someone who is 35 years old and claiming to be hampered by injury is still mentally sharper and therefore advantaged by the age difference.
There are very few people running walking football clubs who are qualified to assess the level of someone’s injury and the impact this would have on their ability. These categories cannot be mixed. Although in this PC world we feel duty bound to be all inclusive, there are severe medical repercussions if this is ignored.
Both males and females in later years can develop osteoporosis but post-menopausal women lose 20% more bone density leaving their bones more at risk of fractures. There is evidence to suggest that a broken hip in an older female could result in fatality within 12-18 months.
Also the anatomy and biomechanics around the hips and knees of females mean that with female hips being wider it changes the angle of the hips and knees leaving them more prone to anterior cruciate injury through accidental collisions. Therefore playing competitively against physically stronger untrained athletes will result in severe injuries. The FA forbids mixed sex participation after the age of 13, so why should that change when you reach 50.
There are many other debatable points on rules and regulations but whatever you decide to do, please……………. do it safely.
Michael Quinn – Sports Therapist
BSc (Hons). MSST Dip ST
All of the tournaments ran by www.walkingfootballtours.com successfully follow these “safer” rules and have had no valid reasons to alter them.