Knee injuries can be the bane of a young athlete's sporting life. Girls, especially, are prone to knee injuries while playing sports such as soccer and basketball.
But a specific training program seemed to have good results in knee-injury prevention, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In the program, 1,506 Swedish female soccer players ages 13 to 19 were assigned to a special nine-month physical training program or a control group that did its normal training and warm-up routine.
The training program concentrated on motor skills and body control, and it was designed to prepare the neuromuscular system for sports-specific moves. It consisted of five elements: warm-up, muscle activation, balance, strength and core stability. The training was integrated into the regular soccer practices and didn't require any extra equipment. Team members also got written and illustrated instructions on how to do the exercises properly. The program was done twice a week during preseason training, and once a week during the playing season.
Three injuries occurred among players who took part in the special training program, including one non-contact injury. Although the injuries were considered serious, all three players went back to full activity within six months of being hurt. Among players in the control group there were 13 knee injuries, including 10 non-contact injuries. Most of the injuries were severe, and only four of the players returned to full activity within six months. Although three of the injuries in the control group happened while the girls were involved in non-soccer sports activities, excluding them from the study did not alter the interpretation of the outcome.
Overall, the training program was linked with a 77% lower frequency of any knee injury, and a 90% lower rate of non-contact knee injuries. In the study, the authors wrote, "The high compliance rate in this study suggests that the program is easy to implement and incorporate into regular soccer practice."
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times