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Simple exercise prevents knee injuries in women football players

A simple exercise program drastically reduces the risk of serious knee injuries for thousands of women football players, as shown in a study by LiU researchers Markus Waldén and Martin Hägglund.

Knee injuries are common in football, and teenage girls have proven to be especially vulnerable. Between 1996 and 2006, 1,300 young women football players injured their knees so seriously that they developed permanent problems. Half of them risk cartilage injuries, which can lead to the joint disease osteoarthritis as early as the 30s and 40s.

But a simple exercise program of 10-15 minutes, woven into the usual warm-ups before a workout, more than halves the risk of injuries.

This has been shown in a study by researchers at the Faculty of Health Sciences, orthopaedist Markus Waldén and physiotherapist Martin Hägglund.

Approximately 500 of over 700 possible teams of women born between 1992 and 1996 participated in the study. Half of the teams were chosen randomly to exercise according to the ‘Knee Control’ programme, a project initiated by Folksam and the Swedish Football Association in 2008.

In total, 341 teams with more than 4,500 players completed the study.

“In the group that followed the preventative exercise, the risk of injuries decreased by 64 per cent,” Waldén says.

The results also show that the teams that practised the exercises to a greater extent than the others further reduced the frequency of injuries.

“What’s important is that you really perform the exercises and that they are performed in a quality manner. If you perform them every three weeks with no real effort, it will have no effect.”

The big challenge for the football teams now is bring the success of the study into their daily activities.

The research study, one of the largest scientific studies done as preventative work in the world of sports, is financed by Folksam, the Swedish Football Association, and the Swedish National Centre for Research in Sports, and has not yet been published.

Text: Gunilla Pravitz


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Last updated: 2012-12-10