Warm-up reduces risk of knee injury
Female athletes more likely to suffer painful ACL injury
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 06:00 am
Soccer season is well underway but some young athletes could see it – as well as their athletic careers – cut short by a damaging knee injury.
A simple twist of the body, shifting of weight or awkward fall could cause a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), especially for girls between 14 and 18 years of age as they are the most at-risk demographic.
“If someone has an ACL injury, then they have to stop participating in sport,” said Iain Muir, director of professional practice with Physiotherapy Alberta. “The rehab for an ACL injury can be quite difficult; it can be challenging to get back into sport, especially if they’re playing very competitive levels of sport.”
Young girls are more susceptible to the injury, which affects one of the four major muscles in the knee, because of reduced power and strength resulting from rapid growth.
Muir said the prevalence of ACL injuries is increasing as more people become active, adding sports injuries most often affect the knee or ankle.
“Some people can function without an ACL, but most people who are going to go back to sports … generally end up having surgery to make the knee stable,” he said.
New research reveals that a specific warm-up, the FIFA 11+ that was created by a team of international experts with FIFA, can significantly reduce the chance of suffering an ACL injury.
Muir said research indicates completing the 15-minutes warm-up drill focused on jumping, coordination, balance and agility, can lower the risk of ACL injury by 64 per cent when practiced between one and three times per week.
The warm-up has been around for about five years, although he said it is just starting to get noticed by soccer clubs, particularly at the more elite levels.
Graham Wood, head coach with the St. Albert Soccer Association (SASA), said the neuromuscular warm-up has been practiced by many teams in the organization since last year.
“It basically helps to prevent knee and ankle injuries among young players,” he said. “It’s a series of exercises that are geared towards warming up but also aligning the body so that you protect the knees and ankles.”
Impact teams are currently undergoing FIFA 11+ training at Servus Place.
Wood said he doesn’t know how many injuries have been prevented, but feels it makes a difference.
“Currently, there’s a 50-per-cent chance of a female player getting a serious knee or ankle injury. On the male side, it’s a 30-per-cent chance,” he said. “The idea is to reduce both those numbers, but specifically with female players.”
Muir said he thinks more teams should follow in SASA’s footsteps and adopt the warm-up.
“I think that anyone who’s coaching kids aged 13 to 18 and even beyond, especially women’s teams, should be using it,” he said. “I think the evidence … shows it has too good an effect to ignore it.”
Suffering an ACL injury will have lasting effects, as future injury is more likely.
“Once you do injure your ACL, you’re much more likely to develop arthritic changes in your knee as you get older,” he said.
Physiotherapy Alberta became involved in ACL injury awareness as a means to prevent injuries.
More information on the warm-up can be found at www.f-marc.com/11plus.