Prevention of anterior cruciate ligament injuries in soccer
Proprioceptive training has been shown to reduce the incidence of ankle sprains in different sports. It can also improve rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries whether treated operatively or nonoperatively. Since ACL injuries lead to long absence from sports and are one of the main causes of permanent sports disability, it is essential to try to prevent them. In a prospective controlled study of 600 soccer players in 40 semiprofessional or amateur teams, we studied the possible preventive effect of a gradually increasing proprioceptive training on four different types of wobble-boards during three soccer seasons. Three hundred players were instructed to train 20 min per day with 5 different phases of increasing difficulty. The first phase consisted of balance training without any balance board; phase 2 of training on a rectangular balance board; phase 3 of training on a round board; phase 4 of training on a combined round and rectangular board; phase 5 of training on a so-called BABS board. A control group of 300 players from other, comparable teams trained “normally” and received no special balance training. Both groups were observed for three whole soccer seasons, and possible ACL lesions were diagnosed by clinical examination, KT-1000 measurements, magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography, and arthroscopy. We found an incidence of 1.15 ACL injuries per team per year in the control group and 0.15 injuries per team per year in the proprioceptively trained group (P<0.001). Proprioceptive training can thus significantly reduce the incidence of ACL injuries in soccer players.