Girls who play soccer tear their ACLs (anterior cruciate ligament) more often than boys. That’s well documented in sports medicine literature, but physicians still don’t know as much as they’d like about those physiological differences.
Here’s what they do know:
- Girls tend to land differently than boys.
- Girls tend to be more quad-dominant than boys.
- Simple drills can reduce the likelihood of either gender having a torn ACL.
That’s why two physical therapists at Indiana University Health Rehabilitation Services are collaborating with a sports physician at Indiana University Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine to reduce this injury risk locally. Together, they are teaching area coaches a few easy drills that can be incorporated in team warm-up routines.
“The idea is to train athletes to be aware of how they can use their muscles to do things in a more ACL-protective way,” says Robert Klitzman, MD, an orthopedic and sports medicine physician with IU Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. “These are user-friendly drills that change landing and help the muscles fire in a way that avoids putting the knee in position for injury.”
The initiative is based on similar efforts in California, where coaches and parents are trained to emphasize correct posture, soft landings and straight up and down jumps—without excessive side-to-side movements. The California program is called PEP, short for Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance, and generates the best results when it’s done at least three times a week.
Simplicity and brevity are key factors in the effectiveness of these drills, which are considered a form of neuromuscular therapy. “If you make it a 45-minute program, people won’t do it,” Klitzman says. He is teaming with two physical therapists at IU Health Rehabilitation Services, Elizabeth Blackburn, DPT, PT, and Kate Grant, DPT, PT, to promote these injury prevention techniques locally.
At first, they’ll focus on training coaches of girls soccer teams. “We’re starting with girls soccer because that’s the population that has the highest rate of ACL injuries,” says Grant. “Eventually, we’d like to open it up to athletes in any dynamic sport.” The training takes about 15 minutes to present, followed by another 15 minutes of demonstration.
Coaches who are interested in this free training can participate by expressing interest at SaveTheACL@gmail.com.