The problem. Females are three times more likely to injure their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while playing soccer than males. ACL injury prevention programs involving stretching and strengthening drills can reduce the incidence (development) of ACL injury when they’re a part of routine training, but it’s hard to know how many coaches use these programs.
The study. Intermountain and University of Utah researchers asked:
- How prevalent are ACL injury programs?
- What factors that can increase use of these prevention programs by soccer coaches?
- How can we better design injury prevention programs, and what’s the best way to disseminate injury prevention information to coaches?
The study focused on more than 700 coaches of female soccer players age 11 - 22 years in Utah. According to the study, only 20 percent of coaches have implemented an ACL injury prevention program. The main factors that determine whether a coach implements a prevention program include amount of coaching experience, and presence of additional coaching staff like a strength and conditioning coach or having an athletic trainer.
The coaches who HAD implemented an injury prevention program agreed that:
- There are immediate performance-enhancing benefits of injury prevention programs
- Education on ACL injury prevention should be required for coach licensure
- Soccer associations will have to REQUIRE these injury prevention programs if there’s any hope of widespread program adoption
The bottom line. A minority of girls soccer coaches have implemented ACL injury prevention programs. Those who have implemented programs have done so because they believe prevention improves performance, and that soccer organizations should enact policies requiring ACL injury prevention education. Soccer organizations should emphasize performance-enhancing benefits of these programs, and encourage engaging additional coaching staff.