Arguably one of the best players in this year’s world cup has been Jordan Pickford, but a knee injury on Boxing Day 2016 could well have prevented the English talisman from boarding the plane to Russia. Following a 3-1 loss to Manchester United it was confirmed that Pickford, then 22, had strained his Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Had that strain been a rupture, we might not have gotten to see some of his heroics between the posts these past few weeks.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are some of the most devastating injuries that anyone can experience. In many cases, it involves complete rupturing of one of the two main ligaments inside the knee, whose responsibility it is to stabilise the knee and restrict excess movement of the joint. When this ligament is torn, the knee becomes unstable and liable to ‘give-way’, in some cases causing further serious injury.
Treatment for such an injury can take two forms; either conservative treatment focused on strengthening the structures around the knee, or surgery, which usually involves using other tendons to take the place of the torn patella, followed by months of rehabilitation that consist of range of movement, propreoceptive, strengthening and return to play exercises. Typically, an optimistic time frame for return-to-play is 6-9 months, with some not ever returning to their sport, and an even larger number not participating in their sport at 5 years post ACL reconstruction.
With the World Cup in full swing, it is important to remember that football has one of the highest rates of ACL injury of any sport.
What are the numbers?
|Knee ligament injuries in past five seasons in the English Premiership|
|Data collated by BBC Sport and sports injury data analyst Chris Coates|
Thankfully, FIFA have constructed a warm-up protocol that has revolutionised the way we get ready for training and games. Long-gone are the days of a few laps around the pitch finished off with a fee lacklustre attempts at toe touching. The FIFA 11+, as it’s called, is a robust regime designed to focus on muscle activation, core strengthening, agility and speed.
Studies have repeatedly shown that FIFA11+ has reduced the incidence of non-contact injury, some as high as 45%. Let that sink in for a moment, that’s nearly one out of every two injuries that can be prevented by following FIFA’s warm-up protocol. Some of the other benefits of following the protocol include: significantly better neuromuscular control (quicker stabilisation time of lower extremity and core), improved functional balance, enhanced knee strength ratios, as well as superior static/dynamic balance and agility skills, trigger core and hip musculature activation, and therefore improved neuromuscular control and better hamstring/quadriceps strength ratios, as well as improved jumping and agility skills.
The FIFA11+ protocol has taken aspects of Pilates, strength and conditioning and functional training and adapted them to suit their sport. If you’re not still out on the grass living the dream, you can always improve your conditioning in a gym to help reduce your risk of injury, for whatever activity you enjoy.