Preventing ACL tears in female athletes

Published: Sep. 9, 2016 at 10:39 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Tearing the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is an athlete's nightmare.  It is a devastating knee injury that requires corrective surgery and almost a year-long recovery.

Females are eight times more likely than their male counterparts to suffer this injury and that's why an aggressive prevention program is in the works in Calcasieu Parish schools.

For three years now, Scott Lounsberry with Athletic Republic and Jamey Rasberry with Lake Charles Memorial Sports Medicine have been collecting, compiling, and critiquing jumping/landing videos of female athletes in Calcasieu Parish schools.

"Soccer, basketball, sports that you have to change directions a lot," said Rasberry.

As sports medicine director, Rasberry sees ACL tears happen on the basketball court and soccer field every season, particularly in female athletes.

"The way females hips are made, they're wider," he said.  "When they jump and land, their knees go in.  We're trying to figure out if there are underlying reasons."

In 2013, Memorial's Foundation for Fair Play set aside funding to launch an ACL injury prevention program in partnership with Calcasieu Parish schools.

The sports medicine team, and Lounsberry's crew from Athletic Republic Lake Area, have gone into every Calcasieu Parish high school to get baseline stats for the most at-risk female sports teams and they follow up at least once a year.

"We took force plates, 3D cameras, high-speed cameras and went out to the different high schools," said Lounsberry, "and collected that data of watching the drop jump to see if we could try to figure out what those predictors were."

Now with three years of data to compare, the newest insight is that females are more prone to ACL tears in the early part of practices or games.

The first change instituted with the coaching staffs is a dynamic warm-up.

"You do it in a slow, controlled manner and that way the body gets ready to jump and land and gets the coordination down," said Lounsberry, "basically increases the coordination of the joints."

Once warmed up, focused drills are done.

"We do work on change of direction drills or plyometrics, where we work on increasing the amount of force that the joint can withstand," said Lounsberry.  "Then the third part of it is specific strengthening drills to work on strengthening the hips and restoring that balance between the hips and the quads."

These female athletes will continue to be followed at least once a year throughout their high school careers.  The ultimate goal: keeping them all in the game.    

Copyright KPLC 2016.  All rights reserved.

Next, the sports medicine team wants to work on developing a specific intervention for female athletes showing a certain degree of laxity, making them more prone to A-C-L tears.