ACL injury prevention program for area female athletes

Females are four times more likely to tear their ACL, a key ligament in the knee, compared to their male counterparts. It is a very common and devastating injury for high school athletes, forced to go out of the game. Now, a local research program is working to change that.

At just 15 years old, Javiney Duhon has already blown out one of her knees playing basketball at Westlake High School.  "It was devastating," she said, "it was a real tragic day. I was at a practice before the season started and my leg hyperextended."

That snapped her anterior cruciate ligament, the ACL, an injury Lake Charles Memorial Sports Medicine Medical Director Dr. Brett Cascio sees a lot in female athletes.  "The ACL is an important ligament inside the knee and it prevents the shin bone from lifting forward on the femur bone," said Dr. Cascio.

Duhon has had reconstructive ACL surgery and is now one of the first of 1,200 female athletes in Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes to undergo a new study on the prevalence and prevention of ACL injuries.  "We are trying to identify female athletes that are at risk for tearing their ACL," said Dr. Cascio, "this is going to measure how they land and the balance of their muscles when they land."

When a student athlete stands on the Athletic Republic plate, a camera is used to record the landing mechanics. That video can then be used for future follow-ups throughout the season.

Markers on the thighs, shins and feet get the landing data from the force plate to the computer, generating data showing what could cause a female to be at a higher risk.  LCMH Sports Medicine Director Jamey Rasberry explains, "Their hips are wider than a male's and that forms a greater angle at the knee called a 'Q angle' and a lot of times females when they land, they land with their knees in or knock-kneed and that's a predisposing factor of tearing your ACL."

Females showing a higher risk for ACL injury will be put into a prevention program, working on strength and form.  That is something Duhon hopes will keep girls like herself in the game.  "If we can avoid it or find a way to decrease it, this should be tried to prevent as much as possible," she said.

This was the first week of ACL testing in Calcasieu Parish. All female soccer and basketball players in Calcasieu and Beauregard Parishes will be tested this year. With extra funding, the program is expected to expand to surrounding parishes.

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