Dec 13, 2016Need for Healthy Knees
Research has shown that female athletes are three times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts. Yet, a study has revealed a way to potentially even the playing field by improving ACL strength in women.
Research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting in July showed that training with a wearable neuromuscular (WNM) device reduced the risk of ACL injury. The study involved a total of 79 elite youth and collegiate female soccer players, ages 12 to 25. Each participant trained with a WNM device that applied bilateral, topical pressure to the medial quadriceps and hamstring muscles. The athletes wore the devices during seven to nine weeks of preseason training, which included a variety of strength and conditioning exercises along with on-field team practices.
The use of the WNM device during preseason training seemed to significantly decrease the likelihood of experiencing an ACL injury during the season.
“Our study showed that training with a wearable neuromuscular device improved postural control in athletes, without limiting performance,” Michael John Decker, PhD, Senior Research Consultant in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the University of Denver and the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “Moreover, no athletes in the study experienced an ACL injury during training or over the course of the following season.”
Since the ACL is meant to stabilize postural control in the legs, a variety of tests targeting posture were conducted in order to determine the effectiveness of training with the WNM device. Postural control was determined by having athletes jump horizontally onto a plate, gain balance on a single leg, and remain balanced for five seconds. Fifteen athletes with and without the WNM device completed this test before and after the training program, while performance was measured in 25 athletes without the WNM device before and after the training program.
The performance level of each participant was measured through a series of exercises. Speed, power, and endurance were assessed with the 40-yard dash, while other measures involved a vertical jump and the Beep test.
Though female athletes are at a greater risk of injuring their ACL, only one in five engage in risk reduction programs. Dr. Decker attributes this to “several participation barriers” that prevent female athletes from practicing proper injury prevention methods. With such a high level of risk to female athletes and such a low number of risk reduction programs, Dr. Decker’s study outlines ways for coaches to take an active role in preventing injuries and protecting their players.
“We hope these devices offer coaches a practical means to overcome participation barriers, opening the door for more organizations and teams to implement similar programs,” he said.
Keeping athletes healthy is essential to building a strong team and having a successful season. Though many coaches rightfully want to push their players to the fullest during preseason, reducing the risk of injury should also be one of the priorities. Coaches need to dedicate time to ensure that they are using the best methods to keep their athletes at full strength. Having athletes train with a WNM device has now been shown to effectively strengthen the ACL and its supporting muscles, and coaches should consider ways to implement this valuable knowledge.