Published: July 29, 2010
Updated: Nov. 11, 2010
Due to the prevalence of ACL injuries and other debilitating injuries in the game of soccer, and especially among young females, it is important to focus on how to prevent these injuries and keep more players on the field.
While injuries from contact may be hard to prevent, neuromuscular injuries are much more preventable. Using proper strength training, balance training, and mechanisms of movement can help to decrease your risk of injury. So, following a comprehensive injury prevention program is vitally important in avoiding neuromuscular causes of injury.
A comprehensive injury prevention program should include the following components:
A proper warm up ensures your muscles are ready for exercise and decreases the risk of injury by preparing your muscles to be lengthened and contracted in a way that mimics the requirements of sport.
Core strength is crucial because the core muscles provide the base for all of your body’s movements.
A strong and stable core allows for better body control and the foundation for improved mechanics of movement.
Hamstring strength is essential in minimizing risk of ACL injury. When the hamstrings contract, they prevent the quads from pulling the tibia (lower leg) forward and shearing the ACL during landing and deceleration activities.
Developing good hamstring strength provides better hamstring-to-quad strength ratio, which minimizes the risk of the quads overpowering the hamstrings.
Gluteal strength is another important factor in minimizing the risk of knee injuries. When the gluteal muscles are strong, they are able to absorb more force, which decreases the force to the knee joint.
Strong gluteal muscles also allow the athlete to maintain good knee alignment, which prevents the knee from being placed in awkward positions that have the potential to result in injury.
Balance training teaches the body to adapt to unexpected external forces while still maintaining proper leg alignment.
This is crucial for sports -- athletes need to maintain good knee alignment even when there is an unexpected force from the ground, ball, or from another player. Balance training has also been shown to be highly effective in reducing ankle sprains.
Plyometrics (jumping) not only develops strength and power, but allows the athlete to practice maintaining good knee alignment during a sport-specific activity.
Agility training promotes quickness and allows the athlete to apply all of the above activities into sport-specific training. It is important for the athlete to practice maintaining knee alignment while performing these agility exercises.
A proper cool down is important to transition your muscles from the intense activities of training to normal use and prevents some of the stiffness and soreness that may follow a training session. If a proper cool down is performed, the athlete will be more prepared for the warm up at the next training session.
Athletes who participate in a quality injury prevention program or practice all of these components on a regular basis not only minimize their risk for injury, they also have the added benefit of improved athletic performance.
When practiced consistently, a training program with all of these aspects will make the athlete quicker, faster, and stronger. So, don't hesitate -- start practicing now!