New program decreases ACL injuries in U female athletes

There may be an answer for the abundance of anterior cruciate ligament tears in female athletes.

In a collaboration between the U Sports Medicine Clinic and U athletic trainers, coaches, researchers, physical therapists and doctors are implementing an ACL protection program into U women’s sports teams’ regimens.

“The athletes are very positive about [the program]. They’ll do anything to prevent an injury that they know can affect their career as an athlete,” said U physical therapist Barbara Fink.

About 45 U female athletes on the soccer, volleyball and basketball teams are being assessed and trained on modifying neuromuscular techniques to prevent ACL tears.

The ACL in the knee is torn two to six times more frequently in females than in males, according to Fink.

U sports medicine doctor Amy Powell said that women experience more ACL tears because of four identifying factors.

The anatomical, biochemical, neuromuscular and hormonal differences in women compared to men all play factors in more ACL tears in women.

Many women athletes naturally point their knee inward when they pivot, not keeping it directly above the toes, which can stress the ACL to the point of tearing.

To prevent this, the U’s women athletes are being trained to point their knees outward when they pivot, as men do, and place less strain on the ligament.

Athletes will also be trained to land a certain a way when jumping.

In one routine designed for female soccer players, athletes will undergo a 15- to 20-minute program that can be done on the field in the place of normal warmups. Other exercise routines have been designed for basketball and volleyball athletes.

“[The program] will be done more frequently during the offseason,” Fink said. “It takes very focused time [from the athletes].”

Based on the success of other ACL tear-prevention programs throughout the country, the number of ligament injuries has decreased by 85 percent in female athletes.

Because of the short time the program has been running, Fink said it is too early to tell if athletes are experiencing fewer ACL tears.

“One exciting thing is the collaborative effort between sports medicine and the athletics department,” U physical therapist Kim Cohee said. “Everyone’s working together on something really fun and positive.”

The program will be incorporated into the U sports teams’ routines from now on to prevent future ACL tears.

Although the program is currently being used only for the U’s athletes, Fink would like to expand it to help high school athletes as well.

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