Definitely the most famous ligament in sport, mere mention of the ACL (or Anterior Cruciate
Ligament, to give it its full name) is enough to make most of us wince and grimace. Whether we’ve
fallen victim to its fragility ourselves, or can just remember the numerous football players to have
shrieked in agony as their knee gives way under a weighty challenge, we all know of it. In fact, there
was a time when it was the most prolific dismantler of England’s championship hopes, before that
pesky metatarsal usurped it. And, obviously, penalty shoot-outs.
However, relatively recent research suggests that Shearer, Owen and co should spare a thought for
their female counterparts, who are four to six times more likely to suffer the agonising twang of the
ACL. Thought to be due to the maturation process – in which girls don’t undergo the same
neuromuscular strength spurt as boys – this tendency towards such a nasty injury can be really bad
news. Not only can it cause serious physical discomfort, injury to the ACL during adolescence can
lead to reduced psychosocial wellbeing and attainment in school, and in the long term can cause
However, there is a window of opportunity to curtail this trend, before the maturation process alters
a girl’s biomechanics. There are four specific deficits which have been identified as the potential
cause of this injury risk – ligament dominance, quadriceps dominance, leg dominance and trunk
dysfunction – and with the right coaching from a qualified Strength and Conditioning professional,
any areas of deficit can be identified and worked on. By assessing these four areas, coaches can
ascertain exactly how an individual’s biomechanics is being affected, identify modifiable risk factors,
and prescribe an appropriate exercise programme to counter it.
Foundation Strength at Lions Sports Academy is based around neuromuscular training. There are
obviously some constraints involved in this: bandying about the term ‘deficit’ isn’t great for anyone’s
motivation, and finding the time in a busy school and social calendar is difficult. However, with the
help of a qualified professional, neuromuscular screening and training can be factored into PE
lessons and participation at sports clubs as part of a normal routine, with minimal specialist
equipment. Through youth focused training and a variety of strength and conditioning exercises,
these deficits can be addressed as part of everyday physical activity. Foundation Strength is led by
trained Strength and Conditioning professionals, where they address muscular imbalances and
target specific areas in need of strengthening.
So there you have it – a fairly simple safeguard against a potential risk. I can almost hear Alan
Shearer now: “There wasn’t any such thing as sports science in my day…” No, Alan. More is the pity.