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How to Prevent ACL Injuries


How to Prevent ACL Injuries

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It’s a researched fact that most overuse injuries in athletes are a result of kids participating in only one sport or activity for extended periods of time. How many stories have you heard about athletes making it all the way to D1 college or pro level teams just to be sidelined by injury for 2 or 3 years and then forced into an early retirement? That’s a DIRECT result of overuse, from participation in one single sport over a decade or two. This fact alone is the catalyst for a decision many parents ultimately have to make, because if it were up to their children, they would not want to upset anyone by leaving their team. However, as your child enters puberty and a major growth spurt, stepping away from soccer for a year or two will limit their chances of incurring a debilitating injury at a time that an injury like that is very probable.

The Cruelty of Competitive Soccer

If you look at the core of most ACL injuries, the underlying problems start around puberty. That’s why it’s suggested by many trainers and respected youth soccer directors to enroll your child in Taekwondo, and encourage them to take an entire year off from competitive soccer as they enter puberty. Martial arts is not just a confidence builder, but it also builds strength and promotes flexibility. Taekwondo in particular is great for soccer and how to prevent ACL injuries, as it focuses more on kicks than other marital arts do.

Taekwondo… for Athletes

USWNT defender Meghan Klingenberg is a black belt in Taekwondo

USWNT defender Meghan Klingenberg is a black belt in Taekwondo

As you already know, competitive soccer (also known as Classic, Premier or Select soccer) can be a cruel environment and can do as much damage to the psyche as it helps. Our kids are literally the best of the best soccer players in their age group, but so often they feel like they’re never quite good enough.

Stepping away from soccer and focusing on Taekwondo for a couple of years will help your soccer athlete tremendously – psychologically and physically – and they won’t miss anything.
In fact, if you look at any youth or pro team and identify their impact player(s), there’s a good chance that those athletes studied a martial art of some sort, and probably Taekwondo. You probably have one of those types of players on your child’s team right now. Many pro teams in every sport are made up of impact players that studied martial arts like Taekwondo in their youth. Aside from confidence, the flexibility they’ll achieve from Taekwondo will eliminate the most common sports related injuries in the future.

“Aren’t you afraid this will hurt their soccer development?”

Female TKD Athlete, Taekwondo Kick
Professional athletics is made up of great ATHLETES. The overwhelming majority of pros you see on TV were multi-sport athletes who were good at a variety of sports. Eventually, (after puberty) they had to choose one. On the other hand, many single sport athletes who essentially reached their potential in their game were forced to give it up early, due to recurring injuries.

One of those people is Stephanie Ebner, who works in the front office of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. She’s preparing to become the GM of a National Women’s Soccer League team.

Her story is like so many we’ve all heard:

“I began playing soccer at the age of 11. I was definitely a late bloomer but fell in love with the sport instantly. My dad set up a goal in the backyard so I could go back there and shoot all I wanted without breaking any windows, which unfortunately happened a couple times. At the age of 13 I was playing a year up for the ’83 girls ODP (Olympic Development Program) team that competed at Region Camp every summer. By the age of 14 I was a member of the Region IV team as well as the U-14 US National Pool. My first youth national team appearance was with the U-16 team in Boca Raton, Florida. The tournament started out the best way possible until the 3rd game where I tore my left ACL. I’ve had some history with my right knee but now it was my left. Once able to play again I was invited to Canada with the U-19 national team (which was beginning their trek to the first ever youth world championship that would take place in Canada, 2002). During the first game I played I ended up tearing the same ACL, bringing me down and out again.

“I was committed to play college ball at Arizona State University. At this time I had fought my way back with the national team to be named the first alternate. During preseason at ASU I was called up to the national team due to a fellow defender tearing her ACL. I played in the first game I had arrived for which was against Chinese Taipei (I scored and had an assist) but did not see another minute on the pitch. Our team would end up beating Canada in sudden death overtime for the championship at Edmonton Commonwealth Stadium.

“From there I completed my four years with ASU. Throughout this time I’ve had 8 knee surgeries. By senior year I was only playing in games since my knees could not handle practice. I have since then quit playing soccer but now work in the sport that has brought me so much!”

Just 4 years of intense youth soccer through puberty resulted in ACL injuries that destroyed Stephanie’s soccer career. She played for 7 more years after the initial injury, but after the first one, she probably should have stepped away for a year or two. Like so many soccer athletes though, she was afraid too.

You can learn from Stephanie, and others like her. Turn your child into a TKD Athlete to avoid mental stress, injuries and to build confidence on the field of play.

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About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop confident, detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. It's important that players NOT be afraid of making mistakes, to encourage an appreciation of failure as a learning tool. This relates to life - not just soccer."

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