Youth: Why Women Soccer Players Need to Focus on Leg & Knee Protection

Feb 17, 2021

*This article is part of an educational series for soccer parents and players new to soccer*

New sports medicine research is delving into the fact that female soccer players are 4-8x more likely to tear their ACL or sustain lower-body injuries than their male counterparts. Many researchers have tried to determine precisely why females are more likely to be injured than males. In this post, we’ll look at what the research is telling us and take a look at the best protective measures, such as women’s soccer protective gear, to reduce lower body injury risks. 

Why Women are More Susceptible to Lower Body Injuries

For many years, sport medicine researchers lumped female soccer players into the same research category as male soccer players. They assumed that what was accurate for men was correct for women. Now, we know that female athletes have specific physiological traits that make them more predisposed to a greater risk of injury. They include:

Joint Laxity - Females generally have a more significant joint laxity than males. If joints are loose and stretchy, they can extend farther than they should during physical exercise and lead to injuries such as a torn ACL. 

Hormones – One of the reasons females have more significant joint laxity could be hormone fluctuations and female hormones. There is an indication that females have increased laxity during certain phases of their menstrual cycle when estradiol and progesterone are elevated.  Hormone fluctuations are also related to increased recovery time from injuries. 

Valgus Alignment – Female soccer players have a slightly different valgus alignment compared to male soccer players. This difference can put the knee at a mechanical disadvantage and place it in a vulnerable position making it more prone to injury. Women also have weaker gluteal and hamstring muscles overall. These muscles contribute to supporting and stabilizing the knee and hip. 

Ligament Size - The ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament helps stabilize the knee and runs between a notch in the femur and the tibia. Females have a narrower notch, and this restricted space can pinch the ACL during activity, leading to tears and ruptures. 

How To Prevent or Reduce the Risk of Lower-Body Injuries

So how to help prevent or reduce the risk of lower-body injuries in women soccer players? Applying some simple stretches, awareness of potential weak areas, and protective equipment can go a long way to help prevent injuries. Here are some exercises and stretches recommended by fitness experts. 

Complete Stretching Program - Talk to a physiotherapist to help you develop a comprehensive stretching program to identify areas of strength and areas to improve upon. They can observe your running, jumping and moving techniques to help you with specific exercises and stretches to strengthen weaker muscles and joints. 

Use of a Foam Roller - Foam rollers are an inexpensive and common device that can help loosen tight ligaments and muscles and strengthen weak supporting muscles. 

FIFA+ 11 Neuromuscular Warmups - The FIFA 11+ is an injury prevention programme aimed at amateur athletes. Research has shown that simple exercise-based programmes such as this can be beneficial in helping to decrease injuries

Wear High-Quality Leg Guards - Protective gear such as Women’s padded pants and soccer leg guards can offer support to joints and limbs and give you protection from collisions and falls.  The Women's BodyShield GK Leggings 3 are women’s goalkeeper pants designed to shut down distractions and include XRD® Extreme Impact Protection on the hips and built-in knee padding for added confidence during training and matches. 

Understanding the risks and how to prevent injuries will go a long way to reducing leg and knee injuries in women’s soccer. Check out our latest line of protective and high-performance gear to keep you playing your best on the field.
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