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Why Female Soccer Players Are More Likely to Get ACL Injuries

Soccer is gaining popularity worldwide, with more girls playing than ever before. However, at all levels of the game a large problem is emerging: female soccer players are more likely to get ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries than boys.

The Big Problem: ACL Injuries

Higher Risk for Girls

Girls playing soccer are 4-6 times more likely to hurt their ACL compared to boys. Here are some eye-opening stats:

  • Each year, about 80,000 high school girls in the U.S. get ACL injuries.

  • Most of these injuries happen in sports like soccer and basketball.

  • Girls have the highest risk of tearing their ACL around age 16.

Why This Matters

ACL injuries are serious and can take a long time to heal. If a girl tears her ACL, she might need surgery and months of rehab. Even then, only about half of the athletes get back to playing at their pre-injury level. Plus, there’s a 30% chance they might injure their ACL again.

Why Are Girls More at Risk?

Body Differences

There are several reasons why girls are more likely to get ACL injuries:

Strength and mobility training at a FIERCE session
Strength and mobility training at a FIERCE session
  1. Body Structure: Girls have a narrower space where the ACL sits, which makes it easier to tear.

  2. Ligament Flexibility: Girls’ ligaments are more flexible, which can make them less stable.

  3. Muscle Strength: Girls often have stronger quadriceps but weaker hamstrings, which affects knee stability.

  4. Landing Style: When girls jump, they tend to land with their knees straight, putting more stress on the ACL.

How Injuries Happen

About 70% of ACL injuries in soccer happen without any contact. This usually occurs when:

  • Running and making sharp cuts.

  • Landing from a jump with the leg straight.

  • Defending, which involves a lot of cutting and stepping.

How to Prevent ACL Injuries

FIERCE players lifting weights
FIERCE players working with Physical Literacy coaches

Strength and Conditioning

  • Build Muscle Strength: Strengthening the muscles around the knee, especially the hamstrings, can help stabilize the knee and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Core Stability: A strong core can improve overall balance and stability, which is crucial for preventing injuries.

Proper Techniques

  • Landing Techniques: Learning to land with knees bent rather than straight can help distribute the force more evenly and reduce stress on the ACL.

  • Cutting and Pivoting: Training on how to properly make sharp cuts and pivots can reduce the chances of an ACL injury. This includes keeping knees slightly bent and staying low to the ground.

Flexibility and Balance

  • Stretching: Regular stretching can improve flexibility, which helps prevent injuries.

  • Balance Exercises: Activities like balance drills can enhance neuromuscular control and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and awkward movements that lead to ACL tears.

Warm-Up Routines

  • Dynamic Warm-Ups: Incorporate dynamic movements that prepare the muscles and joints for the activity. This can include leg swings, high knees, and butt kicks.

  • Sport-Specific Drills: Use drills that mimic the movements in soccer to prepare the body for the specific demands of the sport.

Rest and Recovery

  • Adequate Rest: Ensure players have enough rest between games and training sessions to prevent overuse injuries.

  • Proper Recovery: After intense training or games, proper recovery practices like stretching, hydration, and rest are crucial to prevent injuries.

Education and Awareness

  • Coach and Player Education: Educate coaches and players on the importance of injury prevention techniques and ensure they incorporate them into regular training.

  • Parent Involvement: Parents should be aware of the risks and prevention strategies to support their children in safe sports practices.

The Long-Term Impact

Recovery Challenges

Recovering from an ACL injury can be tough. Surgery and rehab take time, and many athletes don’t get back to their old performance levels. ACL injuries can also lead to arthritis later in life, reaffirming why prevention is so important.

How FIERCE Addresses The ACL Injury Disparity

Understanding why these injuries happen and how to prevent them can make a huge difference, allowing girls to enjoy soccer without the fear of long-term injuries. This is why FIERCE partners with three NCSA CSCS Certified Physical Literacy Coaches to train our players year-round.

Jamie Vargas
Jamie Vargas
John Hull
John Hull
Amie Vargas
Amie Vargas

FIERCE's team of Physical Literacy Coaches lead Strength and Conditioning sessions with the players to grow their confidence in body control, strengthen key muscles, and teach proper form. Their expertise not only contributes to ACL injury prevention, but also allows FIERCE players to play with confidence. Although female soccer players have a higher risk of ACL injuries, FIERCE believes the right prevention strategies can help keep players safe.


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