I have many young patients who are regular soccer players, including many adolescent girls. A recent article in the British Medical Journal caught my eye. The headline: “Simple Warm-Up Program Prevents Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries.”
In my early days of training, I was taught that children rarely suffered ligamentous injuries, especially involving their knees. Boy, has that information changed over the years! I can’t count the number of my teenage patients who’ve had serious knee injuries, many requiring surgery, and some for whom the injuries ended their athletic careers.
We now know that adolescent female soccer players experience anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injuries at a rate twice that of their male counterparts. This study looked at whether these serious injuries can be prevented.
A total of 4,600 females between the ages of 12 and 17 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 percent 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 regimen for your young athlete!
– Dr. Sue Hubbard
Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of “The Kid’s Doctor” radio show. Submit questions at www.kidsdr.com.
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