Female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injuries, but a prevention program can help reduce their risk this soccer season

Soccer season is starting to pick up, and due to the many cutting motions that are so characteristic of the sport, a noteworthy risk of injury comes with it as well.

High on this list are injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which are extremely common for male and female athletes in all age groups, as about 150,000 occur every year in the U.S. For a number of mainly anatomical reasons, female athletes are at a significantly elevated risk for these injuries, and in certain sports like soccer, they are 4-8 times more likely to suffer an ACL tear than males.

The majority of these ACL injuries (~70%) in female athletes are noncontact, meaning they result from landing, pivoting or hyperextending incorrectly during play. ACL strains and sprains usually only lead to a short period of rest and recovery, while tears are much more serious and can have a significant long-term impact on a player’s career. Therefore, it’s imperative that efforts are made to try to keep female athletes safe and reduce their risk of ACL injuries.

As mentioned, the female anatomy is the main reason they experience a higher number of ACL injuries. Females have weaker and wider hips, higher ligament laxity and are more quadriceps-dominant than males, all of which contribute to movements that make an ACL injury more likely. Studies that evaluated functional knee braces to prevent ACL injuries have found no conclusive evidence to support their use; however, multiple studies have shown significant benefits of prevention programs that are focused on addressing these anatomical factors through training.

One of these, the PEP (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance) Program, has been found to lead to drastic reductions in ACL injuries for young female athletes and it’s now even being considered as a tool for use in college and professional athletes.

Coaches and trainers can quickly learn the PEP Program and instruct players on how to effectively carry it out for optimal results. Here are some highlights:

  • —Consists of 19 warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics and sport-specific agility exercises to address deficits in strength and coordination
  • —Requires no specialized equipment
  • —Can be completed in only 15-20 minutes
  • —Recommended to be completed three times per week
  • —Coaches must emphasize correct posture, straight up and down jumps without excessive side-to-side movement, and reinforce soft landings

While the high risk of ACL injuries in female athletes may seem daunting, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done about it. Click here for more information on the PEP Program, and for any additional guidance with injuries to the ACL or anywhere else, visit Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our two locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC. Call 704-471-0001 for an appointment