By Peter Schwartz
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There aren’t too many nights/mornings when I’m anchoring updates at CBS Sports Radio that I don’t mention a professional athlete suffering that dirty little three letter word in the sports world that signifies what has become a common injury.
The fact is that ACL or “anterior cruciate ligament” knee injuries or any other soft tissue or lower extremity injuries are not just limited to professional athletes. They’ve become commonplace and even an epidemic in youth sports as well. The big numbers are in teenage female athletes, but it’s a real problem with both genders and kids of all ages.
Research shows that there are a number of reasons why ACL injuries among children are on the rise.
“There could be muscle imbalance, biomechanical differences, or biomechanical movement differences,” according to John Gallucci, Jr., president and CEO of JAG Physical Therapy and a leading expert on sports injuries.
The good news is that while the number of injuries is astronomical, research shows that there are steps that can be taken to prevent them and all it takes is some time and understanding.
There are a number of programs that can help kids avoid ACL injuries and soft tissue injuries in the lower extremity.
The biggest issue is getting some important people on board with the concept.
“We have evidence-based research that shows us that we can decrease incidents of knee injuries, but it has been very difficult to the coaches to buy in, to have their kids do 15 minutes of exercise three or four times a week,” Gallucci said.
The issue is that the coaches are resistant to taking away practice time to implement an exercise program. It’s kind of mind-boggling if you think about it because there is this opportunity to have a mechanism in place to prevent injuries and it’s not being used.
Among the programs that young athletes could be taking part in is the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation prevention program.
This is a program that takes 15-20 minutes and consists of a warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics (jump training), and sport-specific agilities. Closer to home, JAG Physical Therapy has come up with the “Lower Extremity Strengthening System” or “LESS.” This program has become very popular with parents.
“We combine all the different exercises in a 15-to-18-minute program that works out fantastic and we’re helping decrease injuries,” Gallucci said. “The parents do it at home with their children. They make it a family activity and it decreases the instances of injury.”
So why aren’t more coaches taking advantage of programs like this?
Well, perhaps parents shouldn’t wait around for the coaches and instead take action, themselves. They could be taking these programs to the clubs and the high schools and asking the administrators to implement.
“To have a parent get involved and take the lead on this is 100 percent opportunistic for us to keep the kids out of the emergency room,” Gallucci said. “You have research that shows the opportunity to decrease by close to 50-70 percent the number of ACL injuries. So why wouldn’t you do this?”
That’s a great question. It’s a no-brainer. Parents and coaches need to understand that the kids should be on the field, on the court, and on the ice, instead of lying on a bed in the emergency room.
All it takes is a few minutes a few times a week. The drills in practice can wait if it means avoiding injuries.
For more information on programs provided by JAG Physical Therapy, visit them here.
Don’t’ forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow John Gallucci @DrJAGPT and JAG Physical Therapy @jag_pt1