Preventing ACL Injuries in Girls

Jump. Stop. Pivot. Pop!

That’s the sound most athletes hear when they suffer a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the most common and painful knee injuries. And it’s eight times more likely to happen to your teenage daughter than it is to your son, even if they play the same sport.

The ongoing challenge has been figuring out why and what can be done about it.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center have been looking at the connection between abdominal core strength and ACL injuries in teenage girls to determine if neuromuscular training can reduce injury rates.

Inside the Center’s Human Performance Laboratory, the team uses state of the art 3-D motion analysis to screen female athletes and pinpoint exactly where joint stress occurs as they perform a series of exercises. Overhead cameras track their motion while force plates built into the padded floor capture the direction and power of the girls’ actions.

A common issue they observed in injured female athletes is that they don’t steady their upper bodies when they jump or change directions, which places enormous pressure on their planted knee, and overloads the ACL.

Take basketball as an example. Players with good core strength control their acceleration and deceleration when they jump to shoot and rebound the ball so that when they land, their body absorbs the impact evenly in a column that includes their knees, hips and lower back.

But if a player doesn’t have a strong core, that support column collapses at the weakest point, which is usually the knee, causing them to wobble to one side and  injure themselves.

Learning how to jump, (and land properly), is one way therapists at Cincinnati Children’s are helping female athletes reduce the risk of an injury.

Through neuromuscular training, girls are taught how to balance and control their midsections with exercises that concentrate on core muscle stability and one-leg balance training. Others participate in a more-standard, ACL-injury-prevention program of strength and speed training.

Changes in movement biomechanics and knee joint strength can be seen within six weeks of intervention.

Is your daughter at risk for an ACL injury?

The risk for ACL injuries blossoms in girls during puberty. As they get taller and gain weight, girls don’t add muscle strength like boys do. Essentially their center of balance is changing, but they don’t have the ability to control it. Exercises that increase their awareness of where their body is in space as they move combined with strength training can help.

Parents and coaches can use simple at-home diagnostics to identify girls who are most at risk for injury.

Set up a foot-high box. Have the athlete stand on it and hop down lightly, then immediately leap straight up as high as she can and land back on the ground. Watch closely or videotape her.

Did her knees move toward each other when she landed the first time?

Did they appear to collapse inward as she exploded back up?

Did she lean forward or to one side as she landed back on the ground?

Those are all high risk indicators.

ACL injury prevention has become a common theme in athletic training

Word is spreading about Cincinnati Children’s Sports Medicine training and injury prevention program. Girls’ junior high school and varsity coaches are proactively enrolling their entire team in the program because they’ve witnessed the detrimental impact of having top talent sidelined for an entire season after an ACL injury.

See how the Biodynamics Center at Cincinnati Children’s played a prominent role in a high school soccer team’s state championship season.

Learn more about ACL injuries and treatments.

 

 

Cincinnati Children’s News Team

About the Author:

The members of the news team at Cincinnati Children's are responsible for telling the stories of the medical center. Stories of the families we serve, research and clinical care, safe and healthy practices and happenings at the hospital. If it has to do with Cincinnati Children's, Danielle, Nick, Jim, Kate, Rachel, Terry and Shannon will keep you informed.

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  1. […] I went to a seminar at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, who are one of the leading ACL researchers in the country, a few years ago and learned a ton. It was a great experience; we learned everything from what goes on during surgery to their training/rehab methods, and all the research in between. I wanted to start with a brief article from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. […]
  2. […] and soccer programs. Cincinnati Children's Hospital has been among the leaders in this area Preventing ACL Injuries in Girls - Cincinnati Children's Blog Search DFP for ACL and you'll find further discussion. After DD's ACL replacement, her ortho said […]