Thursday, August 21, 2008

Warm-Up Routine Helps Women Avoid ACL Injury

“Female college soccer players can help protect themselves from injuring the key stabilizing ligament of the knee joint with a series of exercises that can be done in less than a half-hour, a new study shows. ‘It's exciting that it doesn't cost money, it doesn't require special equipment, it doesn't require a lot of training, the whole team can do it,’ Dr. Julie Gilchrist of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, one of the researchers involved in the study, told Reuters Health. ‘The most important thing is technique.’ Women are more likely than men to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, Gilchrist and her colleagues note in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. These injuries frequently require surgical repair and months of rehabilitation. ACL injuries are most likely to occur during deceleration, pivoting, and landing from a jump. Sports medicine specialists have been developing approaches to retrain female athletes to perform these movements more like men do, with some success in preventing ACL injuries, Gilchrist said. However, many of these programs are time-consuming and require special equipment.In the current study, Gilchrist and her team evaluated the Prevent injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) program, which is also intended to reshape women's biomechanics but does not require any special equipment or extensive training. Designed by an expert panel convened by the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation in 1999, the program consists of 19 exercises including warm-ups, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics (training muscles to perform fast, powerful movements), and agility drills. The researchers randomized 61 National Collegiate Athletic Association soccer teams to warm up with the PEP program three times a week or stick with their standard warm-up for the fall 2002 season. Among the 26 teams that did the PEP warm-up, involving a total of 583 athletes, seven non-contact ACL injuries occurred during the season, compared to 18 for the 852 athletes in the 35-team control group. This represented a 41% lower risk of injury in the PEP group, although the difference wasn't significant from a statistical standpoint. There were two non-contact ACL injuries in the intervention group versus 10 in the control group, a 70% reduction that also didn't reach statistical significance. Among athletes who had sustained ACL injuries in the past, those in the PEP Program were nearly five times less likely to reinjure the ligament during the season compared to those who stayed with their usual warm-up routine. ‘We feel very confident that this program is helpful,’ she added, noting that difference in injury rates reached statistical significance in the last six weeks of the season, when athletes would have been expected to be getting the maximum benefit of the exercises.”

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