Program reduces knee injuries in female soccer players

By Tom Nordlie • Published: May 31st, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

In most respects, soccer is a great sport for young women.

It builds cardiovascular fitness while teaching teamwork and perseverance.

Unfortunately, it also has one big disadvantage… knee injuries.

Compared with male players, females are several times more likely to damage the anterior cruciate (KROO-shee-ate) ligament, or A-C-L.

That’s a connective tissue that helps hold the knee joint together.

A torn A-C-L can limit physical activity for months, or even years.

Several factors make young women susceptible to these injuries, including anatomical and hormonal differences between the genders.

But a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine suggests there’s one factor coaches can control.

That’s physical preparedness.

In the study, researchers developed an intervention program to help female players improve their coordination, balance and strength.

The program included twenty minutes of simple exercises and was easily incorporated into team workouts.

Fifty girls’ soccer teams in one Swedish county agreed to adopt the program.

Fifty teams in another county served as a control group.

Altogether, the program was used by almost eight-hundred players ages thirteen to nineteen.

They did the exercises twice a week during preseason workouts and once a week during the regular season.

When the season ended, the intervention group had seventy-seven percent fewer knee injuries than the control group.

Furthermore, five players from the control group suffered A-C-L injuries, compared with zero from the intervention group.

So, the program seemed to work.

And perhaps it will catch on.

Regardless, it’s clear that girls’ soccer coaches should make knee health a primary “goal” for their players.