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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Neuromuscular training benefits female athletes

By Nancy Fehr

Comprehensive neuromuscular training is effective in improving measures of both performance and lower extremity biomechanics in adolescent female athletes, according to researchers presenting Scientific Paper 12 on Wednesday. They noted there is support for combining injury prevention training components in a comprehensive program to improve measures of performance and lower extremity biomechanics.

Researchers sought to examine the effects of a comprehensive neuromuscular training program on measures of performance and lower extremity biomechanics in female athletes. The hypothesis was that female athletes who received such training would improve both measures simultaneously.

Forty-one female basketball, soccer and volleyball players underwent six weeks of training that included four main components: plyometric/movement, core strengthening/balance, resistance and speed training. The athletes were 15.3 years old ( 0.9 years), weighed 64.8 kg ( 9.96 kg) and were 171.2 cm ( 7.21 cm) in height.

The training sessions involved several exercises, including: wall jumps (ankle bounces), squat jumps (frog jumps); tuck jumps (with abdominal crunches), barrier jumps (front to back and side to side) and broad jumps, among others.

Results revealed:

"We conclude that female athletes who train with a comprehensive neuromuscular training program designed for injury prevention can gain simultaneous performance enhancement and significant improvements in movement biomechanics," researchers stated.

"We suggest that off-season and pre-season conditioning programs include components of plyometrics and movement training, resistance training, core strengthening, balance training and speed training," they added. "These components may be combinatory and cumulative in their effects of increasing performance and improving lower extremity biomechanics."

They continued, "If similar comprehensive neuromuscular training programs were to be initiated on a widespread basis, female athletes might achieve optimal performance levels through the combinatory effects of improved power, strength, speed, core stability, functional biomechanics and reduced injury risk. In addition, if employed at the right time in muscular and motor control development, even greater effects on both performance and injury risk may be achieved."

Study authors included Timothy E. Hewett, PhD, Gregory Donald Myer, MS, and Kevin Ray Ford, MS, all of Cincinnati, Ohio.

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