ACL injuries plummet when soccer players warm up, study finds

The competitive drive youth athletes display on the field stays with them as they try to recover from serious injuries. No where is this more evident than with Florida soccer player Janelle Pierson, who told the story of her two ACL injuries to The New York Times in 2008.

The ACL is a ligament that keeps the knee stable, and if it tears, players usually need to devote at least six months to rehabilitating the injury. Pierson's injuries are common among female athletes who participate in sports that involve cutting and jumping. Long-term health problems can also result, which can be frightening for some parents, including Pierson's mother.

"What's it going to be like for them at 40 years old?" Maria Pierson told the newspaper. "They're in so much pain now. Knees and backs and hips, and they just keep going. They've been going at this so hard for 10, 11, 12 years, and its taking a toll. Are they going to look back and regret it?"

In addition to wearing the proper youth soccer equipment, such as shin guards, soccer players can protect themselves from injury by warming up before regular exercise. In fact, a study presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons revealed that athletes who participated in twice-weekly, 15-minute warmups focusing on the knee were 64 percent less likely to experience ACL injuries.

Coaches should teach athletes proper cutting techniques and insist that they warm up for an extended period of time before practice or a game. These procedures, along with wearing the proper soccer equipment to ensure player safety, should ensure that youth athletes spend more time scoring goals than recovering from injuries.