Background: Knee injuries end many careers among female soccer players. The number of injuries can be anticipated to increase because of the increasing popularity of the sport worldwide and the higher incidence of knee injuries among young females compared with males.
Methods: In a community-based intervention trial performed from February 1 through October 31, 2007, we sought to reduce the number of knee injuries among female soccer players aged 13 to 19 years (N = 1506), representing 97 teams from 2 Swedish counties. A physical exercise program designed exclusively for female soccer players was combined with education of athletes, parents, and coaches to increase awareness of injury risk. The training program aimed to improve motor skills, body control, and muscle activation. New acute knee injuries, diagnosed by the physician, were the main outcome measure.
Results: Three knee injuries occurred in the intervention group and 13 occurred in the control group, corresponding to incidence rates of 0.04 and 0.20, respectively, per 1000 player hours. The preventive program was associated with a 77% reduction in knee injury incidence (crude rate ratio, 0.23; 95% confidence interval, 0.04-0.83). The noncontact knee injury incidence rate was 90% lower in the intervention group (crude rate ratio, 0.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.00-0.70). Adjustment for potential confounders strengthened the estimates. Forty-five of the 48 intervention teams (94%) reported a high adherence of at least 75%.
Conclusion: The incidence of knee injuries among young female soccer players can be reduced by implementation of a multifaceted, soccer-specific physical exercise program including education of individual players.