ACL Injury Prevention With the FIFA 11+ Program

Knee injuries are one of the common sports injuries, and it’s often the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that suffers the damage. ACL injuries are especially worrisome here at Siatta Dunbar, DO, CAQSM Sports Medicine because they’re notoriously difficult to heal, they often lead to an early retirement from sports, and they’re on the rise among soccer players. 


We’re dedicated to helping our patients avoid ACL injuries by encouraging them to engage in preventive training using the FIFA 11+ program. Why? Because ACL injuries are not random accidents that occur during unpredictable contact during the game. 


Most ACL injuries occur during non-contact movements, such as sudden deceleration, sidestepping, cutting, pivoting, and landing a jump the wrong way. The FIFA 11+ program focuses on developing the strength and form you need to prevent non-contact ACL injuries.

Why ACL injury prevention is critical

No one wants to suffer an injury. And if you play sports at any level, there’s no doubt you appreciate the importance of preventing injuries. But ACL injuries are especially worrisome because you’re at risk of:

Sustaining extensive knee damage

When your ACL tears, chances are your injuries extend to other structures in the joint. More than half of all patients with an ACL injury end up with damage to the articular cartilage, meniscus, and other ligaments in the joint. You may also develop bruises on the bone below the cartilage.

Needing surgery to restore the ligament

A partially torn ACL doesn’t always require surgery to heal, yet without surgery, you’re at risk for ongoing instability, pain, and a higher chance of reinjury. However, if your ACL is completely ruptured, chances are you need surgery to ensure optimal healing. Whether your injury requires surgery depends on variables like your age and the type of activity or sport you want to get back to playing.

Reinjuring your knee

After your initial ACL injury, chances are high that you’ll suffer a reinjury. Even with surgical repair, 20% of athletes have a second ACL injury within two years, and career athletes spend more time on the disabled list.

FIFA 11+ program basics

A group of international experts at FIFA’s Medical Assessment and Research Centre evaluated the mechanisms and risks leading to ACL injuries to develop the FIFA 11+ program. The exercises, which don’t require special equipment, should be performed in every training session. You should also run through a shortened version before each game.

When you use the program, it’s important to pay attention to proper form and follow the precise sequence of exercises. Studies show that players who follow these basics and use the program at least twice a week had 37% fewer training injuries and 29% fewer injuries during the game. Additionally, severe injuries were reduced by about 50%.

The key elements of injury prevention are core strength, neuromuscular control and balance, and plyometrics and agility. While all three are essential for preventing ACL injuries, plyometrics are especially valuable because they train you how to move in a biomechanically correct manner, strengthening your muscles and ligaments so they’re better prepared to protect the ACL.

FIFA 11+ exercises

The FIFA 11+ program has three parts, and each contains a list of specific exercises. The exercises aren’t new, but the FIFA 11+ program is the first time these specific exercises have been put together, creating a standard warm-up that effectively prevents ACL injuries.

For each exercise, you learn the proper form as well as vital tips that help you avoid body mechanics that place stress on your knees. Here’s a brief look at the three parts.

Part 1: Running exercises at low speed

You master six exercises during part one, including controlled contact and running while stopping to perform movements.

Part 2: Muscle strength, plyometrics, and agility

You work through bench exercises designed to strengthen your core, leg, and gluteal muscles. Then you follow a regimen of active exercises that improve coordination, balance, and movement control. You also perform exercises to build body stability during quick movements.

Part 3: Running exercises at moderate or high speed

During Part 3, you combine moderate-to-high speed running with bounding and planting and cutting movements.

From recreational soccer players to competitive athletes, everyone can benefit from the FIFA 11+ program. To learn more, call Siatta Dunbar, DO, CAQSM Sports Medicine or request an appointment online.

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