An Injury to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, known as the ACL, can be season-ending and life-changing. As a coach, parent, or athlete, you would probably rather hear anything than those three letters uttered in your direction.
A torn ACL is a common knee injury faced by competitive athletes, particularly in sports that involve cutting, pivoting, and jumping. Soccer is the #1 sport for female ACL injuries, followed by basketball at #2. For male athletes, football is the #1 sport for torn ACLs, while soccer and lacrosse are also high on the list. Statistics show that 12-17 year old athletes in high-risk sports are the most vulnerable; and nearly 45% do not return to the same level of play after a major reconstructive surgery and a year of rehabilitation.
If you’re worried about an ACL injury, here’s the good news…you don’t have to go down without a fight!
Injury Prevention Programs are proven to reduce the risk of ACL injury by 53% (up to 67% for females!) through specific training exercises that target strength, balance, and body control. These neuromuscular training programs have been developed by experts for the purpose of preventing non-contact ACL injuries and enhancing performance.
The best way to avoid an ACL injury (and other non-contact injuries involving the lower limb), is to participate in an injury prevention program.
So, where do you start?
Coaches, athletes, and parents, you’re not alone if you’re confused on where to turn next. Navigating the online chaos of neuromuscular training exercises can be overwhelming. But, the simple fact that you are reading this is a sign that you are moving in the right direction toward reducing the likelihood of experiencing a devastating ACL injury.
In this post, we will discuss 3 different types of injury prevention programs, and the pros and cons of each. The goal is to provide clarity by highlighting GOOD options and various methods of accessing the training, no matter where you are located or what your resources are. You don’t have to waste any more time waiting around and wondering what more you could be doing to protect yourself or your athletes!
Whether you’re a coach wanting to help your players stay healthy and avoid injuries; or you’re a parent who does not want to see your child suffer an ACL injury; or you’re an athlete who wants to be the best you can be so you can compete in college or beyond…
The best program is the one you will commit to and stay consistent with 2-3 times per week before and during the season.
Listed below are 3 different options for participating in an Injury Prevention Program to reduce the likelihood of injury and improve performance in your sport…
Note – All of the following examples are:
- Proven to be EFFECTIVE at reducing the risk of injuries and improving performance
- Structured as a progressive format that advances through the duration of the program (safer and will promote better results)
- Developed by experts
On Field Program with Team
Description: 15-20 minute warm-up routine with a series of exercises for neuromuscular training, to be done at the beginning of every training session and on game day
Example: FIFA 11+
Pros: Clear, Easy-to-Follow, Free, On-field (don’t have to drive to a clinic/facility), Replaces a traditional warm-up, Easy to repeat every year
Cons: For parents and athletes, you have to rely on a coach to implement it. For coaches, you have to learn how to teach it properly, and implement it consistently; also, it might replace a traditional routine that you aren’t sure you want to give up.
In Person Program at a Physical Therapy Clinic or Sports Training Facility (Group or 1:1)
Description: 60 minute sessions in group or one-on-one settings for strength and conditioning, typically 2-3 times per week for 6, 8, or 12 weeks
Example: PEP, Sportsmetrics, and other Independent programs designed by PTs or ATCs
Pros: Personalized training (especially if 1:1), Expert guidance available, Sport-specific, Less self-motivation required
Cons: Big time-commitment, Less flexible schedule as appointments are scheduled, Off-site at a clinic/facility/field, Expensive, More difficult to repeat every year and stay consistent with (due to expense and time)
At Home Virtual Program (Individual or Group)
Description: 15-20 minute routine of neuromuscular training exercises that are instructed virtually (via online course) and performed 2-3 times per week
Example: ACL Strong
Pros: Clear, Easy-to-follow, Less Time-commitment, Less Expensive than In-Person programs, Flexible schedule (anytime, anywhere), Expert guidance available, Easy to repeat every year or continue consistently
Cons: More self-motivation required (because it is independent)
*Groups can implement ACL Strong as a hybrid program with one or more training days together and the remainder at home, which can help with keeping athletes accountable and motivated to complete the program
If you were confused about where to find an injury prevention program, hopefully you have more clarity on types of programs that are available to you. We recommend investing your time into a professionally designed program rather than searching for exercises online.
One final tip… Don’t be afraid overlap these strategies. For example, if I were a soccer coach, I would implement the FIFA 11+ and ACL Strong. I would set the athletes up in the ACL Strong group program in the pre-season or early season to get them stronger, moving better, and safer at the beginning of the season. We would also perform the FIFA 11+ program as a team warm-up on training days and game days. These programs would be a high priority for me with the goal of protecting my players and their futures as much as possible.
Good luck with your decision!
Learn about preventing knee injuries and performing better – Click here to become ACL Strong!