Soccer, which has been gaining popularity for years, is a major cause of sports-related injuries, Swedish scientists report in the Jan. 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
But an intervention exercise program reduces the risk of soccer injuries, they report in the study.
Ashkan Kiani, MD, of Uppsala Primary Care of the Uppsala County Council in Sweden, and colleagues looked at a program they designed to reduce the risk of soccer-related knee injuries among 1,506 female athletes aged 13 to 19.
The program featured strengthening exercises designed to improve motor skills, body control, and muscle activation. Training sessions were integrated into regular soccer practices and required no additional equipment, the researchers say. Players, parents, and team leaders attended a seminar to raise awareness of knee injuries caused by soccer.
“The most frequent and severe type of injury among soccer players is to the legs, especially the knees,” the authors write. “The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury incidence is highest among young athletes.” They also note the risk for ACL injuries is much greater in females.
The researchers studied the athletes in 2007. About half were on teams that participated in the exercise program and half were not.
Three knee injuries occurred among players participating in the exercise program, compared to 13 knee injuries among girls in the comparison group who did not do the exercises.
Taking part in the exercise program was associated with a 77% reduction in the incidence of any knee injury and a 90% reduction in the incidence of non-contact knee injury, the researchers report.
“The rate of injury was not only lower among teams participating in the preventive program, but the injuries that did occur were also less severe,” the researchers write.
The exercises involved a structured warm-up program, and exercises aimed at achieving an improved motion pattern that produces less strain to the knee joint, the authors write. Teams were given a written training program, including pictures illustrating the proper ways to perform the exercises, the study says.