Four soccer-playing girls on a team of 20 will rupture an ACL over the course of four years. That averages out to one girl every year who will go through reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation and the loss of a season.
This disturbing statistic comes from Michael Sokolove’s 2008 book, “Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports.”
Such devastating injuries are not limited to the female gender or the sport of soccer. According to a study released July 12 at the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting, 30 percent of baseball players who had “Tommy John” elbow reconstruction surgery in 2005 were high school-age pitchers. From 1991 to 1996, it was only 12 percent.
Some of these injuries could be explained by playing one sport exclusively year-round without any time off for strength training (see Jan. 14 Sparta Point). Other explanations include excessive flexibility among females that could lead to ACL injury (see Jan. 28 Sparta Point), and the role of overhead lifting in reducing elbow injuries (see Jan. 21 Sparta Point). However, one thing is certain: We cannot identify a major, universal factor that causes these injuries because every athlete has several factors that make them unique.
Your training program should address these individual intricacies. At Sparta, we use a very sensitive instrument called a Force Plate that evaluates athletes’ interactions with the ground during a jump. These interactions are a major source for increased performance and injury risk. If athletes are too quick or too slow off the ground compared to their peers, these extremes indicate a deficiency that needs to be corrected through specific training exercises.
Now I realize that only laboratories have access to such equipment, but the Force Plate only puts a number on what a good coaching eye can already see. These instincts serve athletes and us coaches well, as the exercises we generally dislike the most are the ones that we need to be doing more. Our quicker athletes are performing squats slower, and our smoother athletes are trying to sprint faster…