Productive Partnerships

La Trobe University, Law School and Centre for Sport and Social Impact

Preventing knee injuries in adolescent female football players: implementing and evaluating the 11+ injury prevention program in Victoria.

More and more women are playing football (soccer), especially young girls and teenagers. While there are many benefits of exercise and team sports, research shows female football players are particularly susceptible to knee injuries. Almost all studies surrounding female injuries in football highlights the high rate of knee and especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

ACL injuries can lead to significant short and long term issues, for example premature osteoarthritis, and are up to four times more common among female players. In response to these high injury rates, an international group of experts developed the FIFA 11+ injury prevention program, aimed at amateur female players in Switzerland. It proved to be effective, decreasing injuries during matches and training. However, it is not widely implemented in Australia.

The Medibank Better Health Foundation partnered with La Trobe University to understand why there is resistance to implementing the FIFA 11+ injury prevention program amongst Australian female soccer teams.

Researchers performed a mixed-methods study, including concept mapping of coaches’ brainstorming ideas, statement sorting, and importance/feasibility ratings, to identify why coaches weren’t implementing the program.

The study has so far found the education of coaches, players and possibly medical staff is key to the implementation of evidence-based injury prevention programs. They also found there is a need to link program benefits to game outcomes.

It’s hoped this research can be used more broadly to encourage positive change amongst sporting clubs and schools, and advocate to government, health agencies, sports medicine authorities and sporting bodies to recognise ACL injuries in children and adolescents as a priority issue.