Coach and Athletic Director

January 2017

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50 J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 7 injury. Typically described as preventing forward movement of the shin bone in relation to the thigh, the ACL also plays a significant role in preventing rotational forces, which is why so many football players injure their ACL without contact while cutting or pivoting. ACL injuries are understood to be somewhat more preventable, but it requires a¬¬¬n appropriate injury prevention program. Many studies describe ACL injury prevention programs, and additional research will shed more light on effective practices. The best programs emphasize key musculature, which includes strength development of the hamstrings, hips, core and an increase in overall flexibility. Some research suggests narrowing the gap between hamstring strength to quadriceps strength, known as the hamstring:quadriceps ratio. Athletes who can achieve a ratio of 0.60 or higher are said to reduce their overall risk of ACL injury, specifically non-contact. The hamstring muscles work in conjunction with the quadriceps muscles to provide enhanced stability to the knee joint and lessen the stress on the ligaments. Additionally, adding in plyometric and balance training can positively enhance an athlete's neuromuscular control (i.e. the overall ability for muscles to automatically provide joint stability) without the athlete having to think about it. Ankle sprains Ankle sprains remain one of the most common injuries in all sports. These injuries usually occur when the ankle twists inward, stretching the ligaments on the outside part of the ankle, leading to significant swelling and inability to continue playing. It's relatively easy to decrease risk of an ankle sprain, compared to concussions or ACL injuries. The easiest way to lower your risk of ankle sprains is to wear a well-fitting ankle brace. These braces range from very rigid to sleeves, but lace-up versions have the benefit of adjustment during play to desired tightness. Rigid ankle braces can be even more effective but many athletes complain about it limiting motion, even though many studies have shown this not to be the case. Exercises can be a very effective means to decrease ankle sprain risk, with an emphasis on balance and strengthening the peroneal muscles of the lower leg and ankle. These muscles turn the foot outwards, thereby resisting inward motion and helping to limit the amount of force being absorbed by the ligaments. Single leg balance exercises starting on flat ground and progressing to unstable surfaces train these muscles reflexively, being more functional to the athlete long-term. Peripheral and reaction training drills again can help athletes prepare for game situations, allowing them to adjust and not have their ankle end up in a compromising position. Despite the vast number of injuries, football remains extremely popular with many benefits. With proper injury prevention exercises and guidance, teams and individuals can maximize their ability to stay on the field and limit the risk of injuries. Corey Dawkins is the practice administration manager at The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention in Massachusetts. Learn more at Circle #123

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