Adolescent female football and handball players are among the athletes with the highest risk of sustaining anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.
This randomised controlled trial evaluated the effects of evidence-based lower extremity injury prevention training on neuromuscular and biomechanical risk factors for non-contact ACL injury.
Forty adolescent female football and handball players (15-16 years) were randomly allocated to a control group (CON, n=20) or neuromuscular training group (NMT, n=20). The NMT group performed an injury prevention programme as a warm-up before their usual training 3 times weekly for 12 weeks. The CON group completed their regular warm-up exercise programme before training. Players were tested while performing a side cutting movement at baseline and 12-week follow-up, using surface electromyography (EMG) and three-dimensional movement analysis. The study calculated: (1) EMG amplitude from vastus lateralis (VL), semitendinosus (ST) and biceps femoris 10 ms prior to initial contact (IC) normalised to peak EMG amplitude recorded during maximal voluntary isometric contraction and (2) VL-ST EMG preactivity difference during the 10 ms prior to foot contact (primary outcome). The study measured maximal knee joint valgus moment and knee valgus angle at IC.
There was a difference between groups at follow-up in VL-ST preactivity (43% between-group difference; 95% CI 32% to 55%). No between-group differences were observed for kinematic and kinetic variables.
A 12-week injury prevention programme in addition to training and match play in adolescent females altered the pattern of agonist-antagonist muscle preactivity during side cutting. This may represent a more ACL-protective motor strategy.