PURPOSE: Various training programs have been developed for female athletes to improve neuromuscular deficiencies in order to reduce the incidence of knee ligament injuries. We developed a program for high school female basketball players designed to improve both lower limb alignment on landing from a drop-jump, as well as speed, agility and cardiovascular capacity. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a comprehensive neuromuscular training program on landing mechanics and selected sports-specific performance parameters in high school female basketball players. METHODS: Fifty-nine female high school basketball players aged 13 to 17 participated in a supervised 6-week neuromuscular training program. A previously published program was used, with the addition of exercises/drills to improve speed, agility, strength, and cardiovascular capacity. A battery of tests were administered before and after the training program including a video-recorded drop-jump test, multi-stage fitness test, vertical jump, and 20-yard dash test. RESULTS: Athlete compliance with training was high, as all participants attended at least 15 of the 18 training sessions. The aerobic capacity (JOURNAL/jscr/04.02/00124278-201103001-00018/ENTITY_OV0312/v/2017-07-20T235441Z/r/image-pngo2max) showed significant increase (34.1 ± 4.3 pre-train and 39.6 ± 7.1 ml/kg/min post-train, p < .0001), with 53 athletes demonstrating improved scores. Improvements were also found in the drop-jump test for the normalized knee separation distance (42.7 ± 16.5 pre-train and 76.0 ± 19.6 post-train, p < .0001) and the mean absolute separation distance (cm) of knees on landing (17.7 ± 7.2 pre-train and 31.7 ± 10.5 post-train, p < .0001). Further, the vertical jump performance improved from pre- to post-training (14.1 ± 2.7 pre-train and 16 ± 3.7 inches post-train, p < .0001) as well as the 20-yard dash times (3.53 ± .3 pre-train and 3.45 ± .45 post-train, p = .0374). Before training, 51 of the athletes demonstrated poor overall lower limb alignment (with less than 60% of knee separation distance) during landing compared to only 8 after training. Practical Applications: While implementing a program in an attempt to reduce the risk of frequently occurring ACL-injuries in female basketball players, it may be advantageous to combine traditional neuromuscular re-training on landing mechanics with sports-specific performance enhancement training program. This appears to result in more optimal outcome by providing not only a reduction in the risk of serious knee injuries, but also an overall improvement in athletic performance. CONCLUSIONS: This neuromuscular training program is effective in improving both the lower limb alignment during landing activity, thus reducing the risk of knee injuries, and performance parameters of maximal aerobic capacity, vertical jump height, and the 20-yard dash time in high school female basketball players.
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