WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A specially designed warm-up program can help female athletes prevent a common knee injury, U.S. researchers reported on Friday.

Women who completed the Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance, or PEP, program were 1.7 times less likely to have anterior cruciate ligament injuries, the researchers reported.

The program, a rigorous series of running, jumps and stretches, is neuromuscular and aimed at strengthening the muscles and ligaments in and around the knee.

“This study shows tremendous promise for female collegiate soccer players, especially those with a history of ACL injuries,” Dr. Julie Gilchrist of the Centers for Disease Control’s Injury Center, who led the study, said in a statement.

“Enjoying sports is a great way to stay fit. And to stay healthy, we encourage coaches, athletic trainers, and athletes to consider adapting this program into their routine.”

Dr. Bert Mandelbaum and colleagues at the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation in California developed the program and tested it among 61 college and university teams of 1,435 women, 850 of whom completed the program.

Athletes on teams using the PEP Program suffered no ACL injuries during practice, compared to six injuries among women on the other teams.

“The overall anterior cruciate ligament injury rate among intervention athletes was 1.7 times less than in control athletes,” the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Female athletes have a higher risk than men of getting ACL injuries, which usually occur in stopping, turning, or landing from a jump.