Prevention of knee injuries in female footballers

Football soccer is the most popular sport worldwide, there are around 265 million players with trends showing a rapid growth in the sport and in particular female players. One of the most common injuries is that of the knee with the anterior cruciate ligament being the most serious in terms of the onset of osteoarthritis and long-term absence from the sport.

Knee injuries in female footballers is higher compared to males with adolescent girls being at risk most.  Studies undertaken by Walden, et al (2012) suggest in their data that a programme consisting of a neuromuscular warm up significantly reduced ACL injuries, these exercises consisted of core stability and knee control activities. 

Performance in football is determined by many factors, physiological, psychological and biomechanical, although the emphasis has been on the main factors of health-related fitness such as cardiorespiratory fitness, flexibility, speed, muscular strength and endurance, Nikolaidis (2010) states a question on the contribution of core stability in injury prevention and health has also been raised.   Core stability may provide several benefits to the musculoskeletal system, ranging from low back health and preventing knee ligament injury by providing a foundation for greater force production by upper and lower extremities in sport performance.

Core stability is the ability to control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis to allow optimal output, transfer and control of force. Nikolaidis (2010) argues decreased core stability was reported to be associated with a higher risk of injuries in the knee or lower back.  This is supported by Myklebust & Steffen (2009) who claims prevention programmes should be implemented from the ages of 12-14, focusing on a warm up with good movement patterns, exercises which address and improve the lower extremity, core strength as well as awareness and neuromuscular control during static and dynamic movements.

References:

Myklebust, G & Steffen, K (2009) Prevention of ACL injuries: how, when and who. doi:org/10.1007/500167-009-0826-9

Nikolaidis, P (2010) Core stability of male and female football players. doi: 2478/v10101-010-0007-9

Walden, M, Atroshi, I, Magnusson, H, Wagner, P & Hagglund, M (2012) Prevention of acute knee injuries in adolescent female football players: BMJ 2012:344:e3042

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