Neuromuscular Training Availability and Efficacy in Preventing Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury in High School Sports: A Retrospective Cohort Study

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Abstract

Objective:

To document neuromuscular training (NMT) availability and its relationship to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in 4 major high school sports by gender, sport, and rural/urban geography, with the hypothesis that increased exposure to NMT would be associated with fewer ACL injuries.

Design:

A retrospective cohort study.

Setting:

All Minnesota high schools identified in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) database for fall 2014 boys' football and soccer, and girls' volleyball and soccer.

Participants:

All high school athletic directors were surveyed to report their school's fall 2014 experience; 53.5% returned the survey reporting experience with one or more of the sports.

Intervention:

Athletic directors documented each sport's preseason and in-season exposure to NMT (plyometric exercises, proximal/core muscle strengthening, education and feedback regarding proper body mechanics, and aerobics) and licensed athletic trainers.

Main Outcomes:

Reported ACL injuries by sport, gender and rural/urban.

Results:

More than two-thirds of teams incorporated facets of NMT into their sport. Among male athletes, soccer players exposed to licensed athletic trainers experienced significantly fewer ACL injuries (P < 0.005), and NMT was associated with significantly fewer ACL injuries in football (P < 0.05) and soccer (P < 0.05). Female athletes did not demonstrate similar associated improvements, with volleyball injuries associated with increased NMT (P < 0.001), and soccer injuries not associated with NMT. However, girl soccer players in rural settings reported fewer ACL injures compared with urban teams (P < 0.001).

Conclusions:

Most fall high school sports teams were exposed to NMT, which was associated with fewer ACL injuries for male, but not for female athletes. Improved gender- and sport-specific preventive training programs are indicated.

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