Women’s participation in football (soccer) has dramatically increased, especially in adolescents. Previously a male dominated sport, research into injuries was typically aimed at men. As female focused studies emerge, it is evident that female football players are particularly susceptible to knee injuries. Almost all studies surrounding female injuries in football stress the high rate of knee and especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. This is due to the sudden stops, landing and rotation manoeuvres that are specific to football. ACL injuries can lead to significant short and long term morbidity (e.g. premature osteoarthritis) and are up to four times more common among female than male footballers.
This project, conducted in partnership with the Football Federation of Victoria and FIFA, aims to prevent knee injuries in adolescent female football players by implementing and evaluating the 11+ injury prevention program in Victoria. The 11+ injury prevention program was developed in 2003 by an international group of experts. The program aimed at amateur players was implemented in Switzerland and proved to be effective, decreasing injuries during matches and training. Its success proved to be easily and broadly applicable and led to further development into a comprehensive program. When performed at least twice a week the complete warm up program reduced injuries in players from 30-50% and specifically reduced knee injuries among adolescent females by 52%.
While the program has been a proven success abroad, it has not been systematically implemented or evaluated in Australia. In partnership with the Medibank Better Health Foundation and assisted by $52,710 in funding, the program will implement 11+ among coaches of adolescent female football players in Victoria and evaluate its effects. While specific to knee injuries in adolescent female football players, the program will provide important research applicable across numerous training regimes.