Soccer (or football to some of you), has been my sport for over 15 years and I hope to be able to play it until my body tells me it is no longer a good idea. By no means am I a professional or will I ever “make it big” but my experiences over the years have changed the way I now approach my training. I can confidently say that I am stronger now and it has greatly contributed to my injury prevention. I believe it’s important for female soccer players to be highly aware of ACL injury prevention and I’m here to tell you all about it.
How many times have you thought to yourself “Oh, I don’t need to warm up today”? This happens more than we would like to admit, but we are putting ourselves at risk for an injury. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t always had the best warm-up before a practice or a game; but in the last handful of years, I’ve witnessed far too many teammates go down with an injury. The sad truth is not very many of them return to soccer.
Think of injury prevention as a way to keep you playing soccer longer and hassle-free.
It’s more than just a good warm-up that will help you keep playing this beautiful game, it’s truly committing to injury prevention methods such as strength training. The injury rates from soccer are staggering and when you look a bit closer, it is ugly.
ACL Facts (because who doesn’t love a good fact):
- There is an increasing prevalence of ACL injuries. Female athletes have 2-4 times higher risk than their male counterparts. More than 25% of these cases do not return to their previous activity level.
- Most ACL injuries are non-contact and have been linked to factors such as muscle weakness and muscular control. Both are modifiable which means we have the power to change them!
- Neuromuscular training that incorporates lower body strength exercises and landing stabilization have been shown to decrease risk of ACL injuries in female soccer players.
I’m not invincible and neither are you. I want to play this game for as long as I can and that starts with caring for my body and doing everything I can for it. I am 5’2 and have always been one of the shortest players on any team I have played on. That used to mean getting easily pushed off the ball; but incorporating resistance training, outside of my usual practices, provided a noticeable improvement in my game.
My main advice: train outside your comfort zone
My days of competitive youth soccer were filled with multiple training sessions and I thought that was enough. As I transitioned into a women’s league, I began to recognize the gaps in my training and the importance that strength training can have on both my overall health and my performance on the field.
No, I am not saying that all soccer athletes must also be Olympic weightlifting athletes. Nor am I saying that strength training alone will protect you from any injury. I encourage you to train outside your comfort zone! Explore other forms of training that can help to improve your areas of weakness. There are so many great exercises out there to make you stronger and can help with injury prevention. I want you to be able to go out and play the game without having to worry if you will be the next one down for the count. I want you to be able to train and play with confidence.
Think of ACL injury prevention as a way to keep you playing soccer longer and hassle-free. It can be as simple as adding a few exercises to your warm-up before a game or adding an exercise or two to your workout at the gym. Talk to your friendly neighborhood Pivotal physiotherapist to find out how you can prevent an ACL injury or if you are currently taking the right steps towards injury prevention. Do it for you, do it for your knees, and do it for the love of the game.
Physiotherapist at High Performance Centre
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- Ertz, Connor (2018). How to Prevent ACL Injuries in Female Athletes. https://discoveries.childrenshospital.org/prevent-acl-injuries-female-athletes/#:~:text=Sugimoto%20found%20that%20athletes%20who,athlete%20is%20landing%20after%20jumping.
- Kaneko, S., Sasaki, S., Hirose, N., Nagano, Y., Fukano, M., & Fukubayashi, T. (2016). Mechanism of anterior cruciate ligament injury in female soccer players. Asian J Sports Med, in press.
- Petushek, E.J., Sugimoto, D., Stoolmiller, M., Smith, G., & Myer, G.D. (2019). Evidence-based best-practice guidelines for preventing anterior cruciate ligament injuries in young female athletes. Am J Sports Med, 1744-1753.
- Thompson, J.A., Tran, A.A., Gatewood, C.T., Shultz, R., Slider, A., Delp, S.L., & Dragoo, J.L. (2016). Biomechanical effects of an injury prevention program in preadolescent female soccer athletes. Am J Sports Med, 1-8.