In the last decade, ACL prevention programs aimed to decrease a young athlete’s risk of suffering an ACL injury have gained popularity. We still see quite a bit of resistance to using them, though.
Getting coaches and teams to use these programs is the biggest obstacle. Coaches often don’t want to use any time available on the field for anything other than practice.
These programs involve athletes performing a series of exercises for 5 to 15 minutes instead of their normal warmups before practices and games. The exercises train the athlete to land and turn with the leg in the proper position and to recruit the appropriate muscles to absorb impact.
The earlier an athlete begins the neuromuscular training program, the more it might help. Ideally 8- or 9-year-old athletes, such as U-10 recreational or travel teams, would do these programs. If so, we could fix pathologic movement patterns before they start in the first place.
Kids also need to stick with these programs, doing them as many days a week as possible. Not only would young athletes need to start learning and using these programs early, but they would need to stick with them week after week for a long time to keep the risk of ACL injury low.
If you are the athlete who could tear her ACL, these ACL prevention programs could have a dramatic impact on your playing career. Simply changing your warm-up exercises every day could possibly prevent an ACL injury that could cause you to miss the playoffs, sit out a season while your friends play, require you to undergo surgery and a year of rehab, and increase your risk for future injuries and arthritis.
In my new book, That’s Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever, I explain how ACL injuries have afflicted some of the best athletes in the world, and female athletes in particular. If you have kids who play youth sports, you should read it and take steps to keep your kids healthy. Get it here!