Preventing ACL Injuries in Female Athletes
by Linda Cranford
July 29, 2015
South Central Sports Medicine recently hosted a coaches’ luncheon conference at South Central Place for coaches throughout South Central Mississippi.
South Central Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr. Derrick Burgess, who joined South Central Orthopaedics last year and established the South Central Sports Performance+ Program at the Wellness Center, spoke to the group about the importance of preventing ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries in female athletes.
“In the past year, I have seen 22 ACL injuries in local athletes and twelve of those were female athletes ages 14 to 17,” said Burgess. “Basketball, soccer, and cheerleading are the high-risk sports for ACL injuries. The ACL is the most frequently torn ligament and it’s mainly a non-contact injury, especially in basketball players. What happens? They almost always say, ‘I jumped, came down, and heard my knee pop.’ Very seldom do I hear that from male athletes. In soccer, the ACL tears usually occur when the athlete pivots and changes direction.”
Burgess said females are four to five times more likely than their counterpart male athletes playing the exact same sport to injure their ACL. “Many factors have been looked at as to the reason for this. Women tend to be more quadriceps dominate, have weak hamstrings, and tend to land in a more knock-kneed position.”
“I do not operate on anyone who comes in acutely with an ACL tear,” said Burgess. “They are usually sent to physical therapy for at least two to three weeks to regain the motion. If you operate on a stiff knee, they generally tend to struggle more during the post-operative phase of getting their motion back. In the young, active population, surgery for ligament reconstruction, across the board, is almost always done. If they have an unstable knee and continue with their activities, they are at a higher risk of further damage. Surgery is performed within three weeks to three months of the injury. Studies have shown that people who go past three months without having their ACL fixed tend to have a worse outcome.”
Burgess said the key is prevention. “That’s why we developed the Sportsmetrics program here. It was the first scientifically proven program to decrease ACL injuries in female athletes,” explained Burgess. “The focus of the program is on proper jumping and landing techniques, developing upper and lower strength, and increasing the ability to change directions quickly. It’s a six week program, three times a week, for about an hour and 15 minutes. The training is usually done in a small group setting. Our current group has six girls in it. Four of the girls are in the rehab phase after their ACL reconstruction surgery and two are going through the program for strengthening and ACL prevention.
Exercise Physiologist, Whitney Whittington, and three of the girls participating in the program were on hand to demonstrate the different training exercises used in the Sportsmetrics Program at South Central Sports Performance+ at the Wellness Center.
“Each session starts with dynamic warm-up, then they move into plyometrics or jump training, then strength and flexibility training,” explained Burgess as the girls when through the drills. “This program is more for the off-season. It’s hard to incorporate this into the regular season. It’s a very tough program and very physically demanding. There is no way you can do it and not come out stronger.”
“If you will notice, this is a very scientifically designed program,” said Dan Diers, Physical Therapist and Athletic Trainer with South Central Sports Medicine. “The exercises are done in a specific order, for a specific reason.” Diers encouraged the coaches to implement the WIIP program of the Sportsmetrics Program into their athletic training.
Burgess said the WIIP program is a scaled-down 20-minute version of the Sportsmetrics Program and includes its main components, which start with the dynamic warm-up, then moves into plyometrics/jumping, strength, flexibility, and agility drills.
“This has been very informative,” explained Roslyn Haskins, Laurel High School assistant basketball coach, who was attending the luncheon. “The stretching techniques and the entire WIIP program would be excellent for any athletic program. I will definitely incorporate it into our program next year.”
To find out more about South Central Sports Medicine and the South Central Sports Performance+ program, contact Kirk Landrum at 601.399.0534, visit them on Facebook at South Central Sports Medicine, or on their website at southcentralsportsmedicine.com.