By: Scott McDonald, SPARC Intern
ACL injuries are a common injury seen across all sports, but women are up to 8 times more likely than males to have an ACL injury. This can be due to anatomical, hormonal or neuromuscular differences, with the latter being the only one athletes can improve through training. Females tend to be more quad dominant in all the decelerating phases of movements, such as jump landings and cutting. This quad dominance puts added stress on the ACL and can lead to injury especially when the knee is put in unfavorable positions, like valgus flexion. Moreover, female athletes generally have less knee and hip flexion than males during the landing phase of jumps, which means that females absorb less of the landing force through their muscles by not bending their knees and hips as they decelerate. All these reasons put females at a greater risk for ACL injury, but those chances of injury can be reduced through proper strength and agility training.
Two primary responsibilities of a strength and conditioning coach is to make athletes stronger and faster, but the number one goal is to keep athletes safe. When it comes to injury prevention, Mike Boyle said it best—injury prevention is just good training. Meaning there isn’t a designated ACL prevention program that will work 100% of the time, but a combination of training methods taught with proper form and technique will reduce the chance of injury. Warm-ups, stretching, strength training, plyometrics, and sport specific agility training are all keys to reducing injury and should be used in every strength program. Most important are the plyometrics, strength, and agility training that should focus on technique and proper knee angles while jumping and landing. Strength training will build strength in the glutes, hamstrings, and other stabilizing muscles that will keep the knee aligned and not put added stress on the ACL during athletic movements. Injury prevention is most important and is something that should be purposely built into every strength program.