Soccer Performance: ACL Injury Prevention

GamePlan For Success

Soccer Performance: ACL Injury Prevention

Like any injury in sports, the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury is preventable with proper preparation. So getting started with ACL prevention begins with preparation. The ACL injury is one of the most common injuries in sport. Often resulting in 6-12 months of non-participation. It is understood that the ACL injury is dreaded by the athlete, and the soccer athlete is no exception. The frequency and incidence of ACL injury is increased elevated in year-round sports, change of direction sports, and interestingly, in the female athlete.

The Mechanism of ACL Injury

The cause of ACL injury, or mechanism, is frequently the result of a non-contact twisting or hyperextension movement occurring at the knee. This can be caused by sudden stopping(deceleration), landing with over extension (straightening), or a rotational type movement.

ACL: Anatomy and Mechanism of Injury

Frequency of ACL Injury

Injury to the ACL is frequent in field sports such as football, soccer, and lacrosse. It is also common is court sports such as volleyball and basketball. These sports place demands on the athlete that require cutting, deceleration, landing on other athletes, and frequent player to player contact where the knee is hit with the foot planted on the playing surface.

The ACL injury occurs to male and female athletes. The female athlete is almost 10 times more likely to experience an ACL injury. With this said, the primary focus of ACL injury prevention has been directed toward the female athlete. Despite anatomical variations  and physiological differences of the female and male athlete the risk of injury must be reduced by thorough preparation to maximize performance and safety. Additionally, the year-round training program must include periodization and fluctuation of the competitive season to prepare and recover from the demands of the sport.

Prevention of Athletic ACL Injuries

An ACL Injury Prevention Program must be implemented within a Soccer Strength and Conditioning Program. Attention must be given to the time demands of practice, seasonal competition and tournament play, and to the age and ability level of the individual and/or team. It is important to define specific times during the year that are considered Pre-season, In-season and Post-season. It is during these time frames that specific strength and conditioning demands can be included in the training program, and ACL Prevention can be implemented. This annual plan strength and conditioning program structured into phases is termed periodization. While the coach is generally responsible for aspect of training the team to be prepared, it must become the player’s, and in the case of the young athlete, the parent’s, responsibility to ensure that the athlete is adequately prepared for play. Education becomes a vital aspect. The GamePlan for Success in Athletics includes the athlete being continually educated to take a greater responsibility for their own health and well-being.

Teens and ACL Tears: Year-round Sports lead to Injuries

A Soccer-Specific ACL Prevention Program will consist of:

Dynamic Warm-up

  • Warm-up
      • Jog up and back (30 meter)
      • Backward Running (30 meter)
      • Side Stepping up and back (30 meter)
  • Stretch/Mobility
      • Walking 30 meters alternating pulling one knee toward shoulder, then the opposite, on toes.
      • Walking Forward and Reverse Hurdle Drill -30 meter- (Hips)
      • Reverse Lunge stretch (Hips) – Repeat 3 times each for 10 seconds.
      • Lateral lunge stretch (Hips) – repeat 3 times each for 10 seconds.
      • Squat to Hip Raise (Hips, Knees and Ankles)
        • Keeping an athletic posture, squat bringing finger tips to ground.
        • Keep back slightly arched, hips back and feet flat.
        • Raise hips with fingers touching ground until stretch is felt in back of knees.
        • Hold for 5 secs. and return to standing position. Repeating this 10 times.
      • Alternate knee to chest, opposite leg 6″ off ground (Hips and Core Work)
      • Alternate straight-leg stretch, opposite leg 6″ off ground (Hamstrings and Core work)
  • Strengthening
      • Single leg Bridge

        Single Leg Bridge

        • 2 x 10 each leg
      • Single leg Balance and Reach (two way)
        • 2 x 10 Backward Reach each leg
        • 2 x 10 Lateral Reach each leg
      • Bridge with Heel Slide
        • 2 x 10
      • Russian Hamstring (Glute-Ham Raise)
        • 2 x 10 with 5 second hold each repetition
      • Hip Sweeps with Band (sidelying with resistance band around knees)
        • 2 x 10 each leg
  • Agility
      • High knee skipping (30 meters)- emphasize height and distance.
      • Diagonal Steps (30 meters)- with a low center of gravity, athletic and knees bent posture, take three diagonal strides to right (at 45 degrees), push-off with left leg and land on right, then push-off left and land on right . Three steps to right then 3 steps to left. Repeat 3-steps right then left over 30 meters.
      • Pro-Agility (20 meters/yards)- emphasize low center of gravity and change of direction.
        • Straddle middle line. On go run 5 yards and touch line with hand.
        • Immediately run 10 yards and touch line with opposite hand.
        • Turn and sprint 5 yards (start/finish line).
        • Perform 2 in each direction.
  • Plyometrics
      • Tuck jumps (In place)- Jump vertically 5 times in a row, each time bringing your knees toward your chest while in the air, landing softly and with knees slightly bent. Minimize time spent on ground.
      • Lateral Hops (Over cone)- Jump side to side with both feet over a cone for 10 repetitions each direction. Land softly with knees bent.
      • Single Leg Hops (in place)- Position of knee is slightly bent throughout exercise.
        • Jump 10 times side to side in a lateral direction(each leg).
        • Jump 10 times forward and backward(each leg).
      • Single Leg Hops (10 meters)- hop on the same leg over the distance making sure not to land stiff-legged, and minimizing time spent on ground. Over three sets try to decrease the total jumps required in 10 meters while maximizing control and knee positioning.

The intent of the program is to maximize the strength and stabilizing effect the muscles have on the knee. In terms of specific muscles, the ACL is protected by the hamstring muscle on the back of the thigh. This muscles prevents the forward displacement of the lower leg(tibia) in relation to the upper leg(femur). While the hamstring is an important stabilizer of the knee, it is essential to coordinate other supportive joints and muscles into a complete strength and conditioning program. This includes core musculature, and muscles that cross the hip, knee and ankle. Proper fitness training must also be incorporated to match the demands of the sport. This includes speed and speed endurance, and aerobic conditioning.

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Blog Post by: Randy Bauer

5 responses to “Soccer Performance: ACL Injury Prevention

  1. Pingback: Athlete Wellness: A Game Plan for Success | WellEvolvEdU·

  2. Reblogged this on WellEvolvEdU and commented:

    A GamePlan for Success in Athletics must include a Periodized, Year-round, training program. This will include variations or training and competitive demands. The goal is reduced exposure to injury, physical preparation and adequate recovery from training and competitive stress. A Healthy Athlete has a GamePlan.

  3. Pingback: The Chondral Lesion Associated with ACL Rupture | Well-EvolvEd-U·

  4. Pingback: Soccer Performance: ACL Injury Prevention | Bauer Physical Therapy |·

  5. Pingback: Overexposing Youth Athletes to Injury | Well-EvolvEd-U·

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