It is widely-regarded in the sports community that female athletes experience a much higher rate of injury than their male counterparts, and this is specifically true for ACL tears in the knee, which are roughly 4-times more prevalent.
Why is this the case, and how can these injuries be prevented? This isnít an easily answered question, nor does it have a singular answer; but ACL prevention is a large aspect of Sport-Performance Training for the female athlete.
At Complete Strength Development, we concentrate our focus on two factors that can decrease the rate of injury for our athletes: Strength and Stability. These two aspects of training can go hand-in-hand, but one or the other can often be lacking in a typical training program for female athletes.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament runs from the Femur (thigh bone) and connects to the Tibia (shin bone) behind the Knee Cap. It provides stability for the knee joint by not allowing the Tibia to slide forward away from the Femur. The most common ACL tears in female athletes occur during a cutting or landing movement during sport competition, where the knee joint isnít stable enough to withstand this movement of the Tibia.
To stabilize the knee joint for these athletes we focus on Dynamic Stability by teaching proper landing, cutting, jumping, and sprinting mechanics so the nervous system (which controls muscle/joint movement) can adapt to these movements and it becomes the natural action of the athlete during competition. We want our female athletes to be able to land and cut without thinking about how to get in the correct position.
Our second area of focus to stabilize the knee joint is Strength, specifically improved strength of the Hamstrings, Glutes, and Quads. Female athletes, especially soccer players, typically have much weaker hamstrings compared to their quadriceps, which creates instability.
Strong and properly functioning glutes allow the athlete to drop their hips when landing and cutting, and prevent knee valgus, which is the knee collapsing inward toward the other knee. The inside part of the quadriceps needs to be developed to also prevent that valgus collapse of the knee. There are many ways to develop strength in these muscles, but the focus should be on stabilization of the knee joint as a whole.
While there are other factors such as hip-width and hormone levels that affect the injury rate of ACL tears in female athletes, lack of Strength and Dynamic Stability are the two factors that can be corrected by a proper performance training program. We strive to create strong, stable female athletes to greatly decrease the risk of non-contact ACL tears. This should be the focus of all training programs and coaches working with female athletes at all levels.
Bryan Marlborough, CSCS received his Strength & Conditioning Specialist certification in 2008 and founded Complete Strength Development, a private training facility here in Lees Summit, where he is the Director of Sport Performance. He has an extensive background in sports and training athletes of all ages.
Marlborough has 15 years of experience playing, coaching, or training Quarterbacks in football and has worked with over 100 different athletes from various sports over the past 5 years. Bryan also serves as the Strength & Conditioning coach for the Kansas City Shock womenís soccer team.