Protecting Girls From Injury - ACL
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Protecting Girls From Injury - ACL

 

 

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

arthritis.

 

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.

Ed Captick

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