Finding a Balance to Protect the Female Athlete's KneePhysical therapists are busy finding ways to stop anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries of the knee. This study reports the results of a balance-training program. The goal was to improve balance in young female athletes as a way to prevent ACL injury.
Females in sports are more likely to injure the ACL than males. In fact, the rate of ACL injury in female athletes is six times higher than for male athletes.
Forty-one high school athletes (girls ages 13 to 17) trained for six weeks. They did balance exercises for 90 minutes three times each week. The training took place during the summer before the playing season began.
A special tilting (moving) platform was used. This device measured the girls' postural stability before and after the program. Postural stability is the ability to stay standing upright when moved off balance. The girls were displaced by the unstable surface of the platform. They were standing on one foot for 20 seconds during the test. The platform measured how far off center the foot moved during that time.
The authors report that everyone showed improvement in single-leg stability. Participants could hold the foot level when the movement was forward and back better than when the motion was from side to side. The training seemed to help the right leg more than the left.
Many studies show how rehab helps patients recover after surgery for a torn or damaged ACL. This report adds to that bank of data by showing that as little as six weeks of training can improve postural balance in the leg. Better balance means greater stability and fewer ACL injuries.
Mark V. Paterno, PT, MS, SCS, ATC, et al. Neuromuscular Training Improves Single-Limb Stability in Young Female Athletes. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. June 2004. Vol. 34. No. 6. Pp. 305-316.
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