ACL Injuries in Young Athletes

I have many young patients that are regular soccer players and many of them are adolescent girls. A recent article in the British Medical Journal caught my eye. The title Simple Warm-Up Program Prevents Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries. 

In my early days of training, I was taught that children rarely had ligamentous injuries especially involving their knees. Boy has that information changed over the years! I cant even count the number of teenage patients of mine who have had serious knee injuries, many requiring surgeries and some injuries ending their athletic careers.  

We now know that adolescent female soccer players experience anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injuries at a rate that is twice that of their male counterparts.  This study looked at whether these serious injuries can be prevented. 

4,600 females between the ages of 12 - 17 years participated in the study. Two-thirds were instructed in how to perform a 15 minute warm up program focusing on new control and core stability. This consisted of 5 minutes of jogging followed by six exercises (one-legged knee squat, two-legged knee squat, lunge, bench press, jump/landing technique, and pelvic lift).  The program was completed twice weekly during soccer season and progressed through 4 levels of difficulty. 

The outcome? Seven players in the intervention group, and 14 in the control group experienced ACL injuries. The rate of ACL injury was 64% lower in the intervention group. Pretty impressive! 

So, a simple warm up program which is easy to institute can prevent ACL injuries in young female soccer players.  It would be interesting to see another study looking at whether these same warm up programs can be applied to male soccer players as well as to athletes in other sports (basketball and softball) where knee injuries are common. 

These exercises seem to help minimize lateral trunk movement and knee valgus (knock knees) which are risk factors for ACL injuries. Might be worth starting this program in your young athlete! 

Thats your daily dose for today.  Well chat again tomorrow.

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