BACKGROUND: Female soccer players are particularly susceptible to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, accounting for 16% to 43% of the injury burden during the season. Despite the advancements in injury prevention programs, the rate of ACL injuries continues to rise.
PURPOSE: To provide a comprehensive description of the mechanisms, situational pattern, and biomechanics of ACL injuries in women's soccer.
STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.
METHODS: We identified 57 consecutive ACL injuries that occurred in matches of 6 top female leagues across 3 seasons (2017-2020). A total of 35 (61%) injury videos were analyzed for the mechanism and situational pattern, while biomechanical analysis was possible in 29 cases. Three independent reviewers evaluated each video. The distribution of ACL injuries according to month, timing within the match, and field location at the time of injury was also reported.
RESULTS: In the 35 injury videos, there were 19 (54%) noncontact injuries, 12 (34%) indirect contact injuries, and 4 (11%) direct contact injuries. We identified 3 main situations in players who suffered a noncontact/indirect contact injury: (1) pressing and tackling (n = 18), (2) regaining balance after kicking (n = 7), and (3) being tackled (n = 4). Biomechanical analysis indicated multiplanar mechanisms with frequent knee valgus loading (88%). Additionally, 64% of injuries occurred in the first half of matches and most frequently within the first 30 minutes.
CONCLUSION: Female athletes showed remarkable similarities with elite male players in terms of the ACL mechanism and situational pattern of injury, and 88% of injuries involved no direct contact to the knee, with noncontact injuries being highly prevalent. Injuries occurred during 3 main situations, with accompanying alterations in multiplanar biomechanics. Interventions aimed at reducing ACL injuries in women's soccer should consider high-intensity defensive play at the beginning of a match. Instruction in the 3 main situations should be applied alongside appropriate neuromuscular training interventions.
- injury mechanism
- situational pattern
- video analysis
- women’s soccer