We know that performing a disciplined dynamic warm up before training and games can reduce non-contact ACL injuries by 50-65%. And this is especially important in young female athletes who participate in running, jumping and cutting sports. But the number of ACL reconstructions continues to rise, especially among girls in the 13-17 year old age group.
Why? We wait until they’re at high risk to teach them how to move more safely. By the time they’re 15 or 16 years old, their poor movement habits have become ingrained. If we’re going to beat this injury, we have to start younger.
Here, by age group, is the curriculum Fit2Finish recommends to teach healthy movement — starting with your youngest players. Let’s beat this injury together and keep our soccer players in the game.
ACL Injury Prevention Club Curriculum Guidelines
U8 – Goal: Coordination, Body Awareness
Developing their sense of how the body moves. Run, jump, leap, hop. Bend, “sit” frog. Throw, roll. 1 foot vs 2 feet. Balanced movement. Right and left. Learning to separate top and bottom half. (“Enhanced” carioca) Forward and backward. Shuffling, sliding, moving sideways. (Coach cuing emphasis: proprioception, not just visual demo.)
Games: Games: leapfrog, enhanced carioca, “lay an egg”
U10 – Goal: Bi-lateral strength, coordination, balance, body sense/movement and speed
More body control but wide range among athletes. Goal: smooth, balanced movement, bi-lateral, bent knee, hop, skip, jump, “squat” games, Team/Band games create a body-learning environment. Use BBB position – balls of feet, head up — when performing ball skill drills. Take warm up seriously. Build routine. Work on form during the fun.
Games: Obstacle course/Band games, the BBB
U12 – Goal: Body control, agility and quickness, reaction time
Agility, quickness, change of direction, accel/decel, controlling speed and body; jump/leap/bound/ combination movement w/ and without ball; receive touch turn; soften touch accel; defend/tackle position. Game skills WITH safe movement habits in place. Rapidly growth in height/limb length creates additional challenge, require extra patience.
Games: Band games, hop and shove, leap and volley, shove the gamut
U14 – Goal: Dynamic strength, begin power, balance, “injury prevention” (learning)
Game IQ added, skills responding to pressure, opponent, game demands, “load;” Soccer/sport-specific tactics/movement performed at game speed. Tackles and defending. Receiving and sending high balls. Jumping and landing. Movement habits patterned.
Training: Jumping and landing; leap for power, agility using ball; partner Nordic hams, core “throw the feet,” medicine ball
U16 Goal: Dynamic strength, balance, power!, “injury prevention” (application: in play)
U18 – Goal: Endurance, power!, game IQ, relationships/team (partner observation)
HS challenge: the variability in size, skill, physical development and playing style.
Non-contact ACL risk high. Beware: reckless play will often injure.
Freshman less mature physically, more finesse, less force.
Warm up focus:
- proper form (nonnegotiable)
- progressive increase in challenge (essential)
- part of team/club culture (sr players teach jr players?)