Reducing ACL Injuries in Women

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The ACL Injury Prevention Project was created by the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Foundation in an effort to reduce the number of ACL injuries in young female athletes. As numbers of young, female athletes has increased, there has been a corresponding rise in devastating ACL injuries. The female soccer player’s risk of injuring the ACL has been shown to be as much as eight times that of young men.  One article said that the non-contact ACL injuries can be 10 times higher in women. Using the simple exercises developed by the Santa Monica Foundation in a practice or training program has been shown to significantly reduce the number of ACL injuries in these young athletes.

This past summer I was watching a college age soccer match and was told that of the 16 girls who had played together a few years earlier on a club team, 6 had torn their ACL. For three of these girls the injury had ended their sports participation. One of the three who were able to come back to their team eventually tore the ACL in her other knee. Even the two that still played had suffered greatly during the year-long rehabilitation period, and never fully recovered their previous athletic ability.

There are many theories for the higher number of ACL injuries in women. These range from estrogen causing women to have looser ligaments to begin with, to the different alignment of a women’s pelvis, or even just the tendency for many girls to run differently than boys. In fact, one expert claims that she can accurately predict a large percentage of these future injuries just by watching 12 or 13 year old girls play soccer. She looks for girls with upright, lumbering, gaits as opposed to the girls who run more like boys, lower to the ground, with bent knees, etc. She claims that the rate of ACL injury in these upright running girls could be as high as 60% over their teen years! She also feels that, even in this higher risk category of girls, teaching them to run differently and incorporating specific exercises into practices and training, can significantly reduce the chance of injury.

Obviously something needs to be done to reduce the number of these injuries in young women. The “Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance” (PEP) program is claimed to do exactly that. In one small study which followed for one season, 1,435 division one women’s soccer players, the results were astounding. Because these were older teens, many of the girls most susceptible to this injury had already been hurt and ended their playing, leaving the more resilient girls for the study. Hence the total number of ACL injuries in the study was unusually small, (six). Even still, all of these injuries occurred on teams that did not incorporate the PEP training into their practices. On the teams which used PEP, there were no injuries.

If you know a young woman who plays sports, soccer and basketball in particular, talk to the coaches and ask them to incorporate the PEP program into their practice and training regimen. An ACL injury is one of the worst injuries an athlete can have, often not only ending their chance to play the sports they love, but creating life-long discomfort, and as they get older, possibly arthritis in the injured knee.

Please print this out for your use, to give to a coach, or to provide to your school’s athletic department. Also, here is a link to a PDF file of the actual PEP program so you can print that also. This link is to a Foundation page that offers a video of the PEP program.  You can also contact Holly Silvers at (310) 829-2663 ext. 1283 to get the video and other information on how to officially participate in the PEP program.  Official participation is not required, though.  You can use the PEP program any way that fits your need, whether in a school athletic department, a club sports team, or at home with your daughter.  We parents and coaches of the girls who are taking advantage of the increased availability of female athletics owe it to them to do whatever we can to reduce their chance of this serious injury.

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Will Sig
1 Tim

I was unaware my daughter was at risk for such an injury. Thanks for getting the word out!

Tims last blog post..Spam-a-Lam-a-Ding-Dong – Spametry Lives On

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2 Will

You are welcome, Tim. I just noticed myself in the photo of my daughter guarding the boy in the photo above how her knees are torqued. Makes me squeamish to look at it, maybe I should have chosen another photo.

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3 Anna

Will another good one, btw I had to look up ACL, lol.
Anna 🙂

Annas last blog post..Give A Goat for Christmas

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4 James

Athletes can reduce their risk of ACL injuries by performing training drills that require balance, power and agility. Adding plyometric exercises, such as jumping, and balance drills helps improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions and ultimately shows a decrease in the risk of ACL injury. Many team physicians now routinely recommend an ACL conditioning program, especially for their female players!

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5 James

Athletes can reduce their risk of ACL injuries by performing training drills that require balance, power and agility. Adding plyometric exercises, such as jumping, and balance drills helps improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions and ultimately shows a decrease in the risk of ACL injury. Many team physicians now routinely recommend an ACL conditioning program, especially for their female players!

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6 JOHN BIRD

I am from the UK and the parent of an 18 year old soccer who plays at an elite level and is, in fact, coming to a US College to do a degree and play soccer.

Her squad of 22 has had 3 ACL injuries since May; all were non-contact and on 3G astroturf. In one case, during the operation damage that had not been recognised in the past was identified. In all three, there was also cartilege damage. Even at an elite level there seems to be little awareness of PEP and, amongst parents, little awareness of the risks of these injuries. Players learn to ‘tough it out’ and coaches sometimes collude with this so that injured players play on.

I think there are many variables impacting on this inujury – boot design, earlay specialisation in one sport, poorly maintained playing surfaces etc. etc…….

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7 Will

Hi John – There are certainly many variables but one fact is that young women suffer this injury at a rate as high as 8 times that of boys. With this injury it is so traumatic that toughing it out is not an option. Approx. 1/2 of the elite players that suffer this injury have their participation in the sport ended. Among the average high school player, this injury is almost always an end to their sports participation.

Even at our local high school where my daughter plays basketball on a very elite team, and where I have vocalized and handed out literature on this injury and PEP, no specific program to reduce the injury is in place. All the girls can do is make sure to take Phys-ed for athletes every semester, doing conditioning and weight training different than what they get in sports practice. It is really left up to the girls to work this out themselves.

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