With the NFL season now well-underway, we've already seen numerous non-contact knee injuries arise in players from numerous teams. The subject of ACL injury prevention is one I am quite passionate about and have invested thousands of hours of research and application in. Contrary to what many people believe about knee injuries, they are often not a "fluke," but rather the result of improper or in many cases, non-existent prevention training. I don't mean that statement as an indictment of NFL coaches or athletic trainers, quite the contrary actually. It isn't that they don't WANT to prevent these injuries, for most it's simply that they don't even know they CAN be prevented in the first place.
My research into ACL injury prevention in athletes actually began more than two decades ago with female youth soccer players and then with men's soccer. Over the course of that time, some interesting consistencies began to arise. The trouble seemed not to be coming from the mechanics of the knee itself, but rather from weakness and lack of control in the hip. Improper hip mechanics appeared to put the knee in a bad position, thus overloading the ACL and causing it to eventually tear.
Armed with the unexpected knowledge our research provided all those years ago and along with several esteemed colleagues, we worked to establish a training program to help prevent ACL tears in young athletes. Called the PEP program, and still in use today, this training protocol aims to prevent ACL injury by addressing proper hip mechanics in athletes. And it works.
With years of research and training now under our belts, we can confidently say that this program has been able to reduce ACL injury in up to 66% of participants. Even better news? The program itself consists of training exercises that require just 25 minutes per session, three times per week. When it comes to extremely painful, medically expensive and potentially career-ending ACL injuries, who doesn't have time for that?
While the research that my colleagues and I conducted didn't involve NFL players, we truly believe that this program has application and value across a broad spectrum of sports types, including football. With the regular season just kicking off and not knowing just how many ACL injuries will be sustained during it, I truly believe the time is now to begin making these considerations. For the health of players and to demonstrate to a watching young audience, this is an important conversation to have. The great Benjamin Franklin said it best: "An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure."