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Sports Medicine Specialists Offer Tips to Help Prevent ACL Injury in Young Athletes

New York—April 1, 2010

With more young people participating in organized sports than ever before, it’s not surprising that the number of pediatric sports injuries is rising. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries of the knee are particularly common among athletes ages 15 to 18, with a higher incidence among young female athletes.

The ACL is part of a network of tendons and ligaments that help stabilize and support the knee. Injury to the ACL can result from contact or a noncontact mechanism.  Seventy to 80 percent of ACL injuries are a result of landing from a jump, pivoting and/or decelerating.  Exercises to help strengthen muscles and improve faulty movement patterns are critical in preventing ACL injuries, according to Theresa Chiaia, P.T., DPT, section manager, Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center, Rehabilitation Department, at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Chiaia recently presented on ACL injury prevention at Hospital for Special Surgery’s 12th Annual Sports Medicine for the Young Athlete Symposium.

“Proper ACL injury prevention programs are an important part of any young athlete’s training regimen,” says Chiaia. “It’s important that coaches and trainers are educated about the mechanics of the knee so they understand who’s at risk for ACL injuries.”

“There’s a higher incidence of ACL injuries in athletes who play sports that require jumping or a quick change of direction like soccer, basketball and volleyball,” says Polly de Mille, R.N., RCEP, CSCS, an exercise physiologist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Women’s Sports Medicine Center.

Chiaia and de Mille offer the following tips for coaches and trainers to help prevent ACL injuries in young athletes:

• Understand the anatomy of the knee, what the ACL is, and how the body works. This will help in heightening awareness of what causes ACL injuries and who is at risk for them.

• Teach your athletes how to move with good alignment so that the knees are protected. This can be achieved by developing body awareness (brain-body connection), strength and balance to support both knees and ankles.

• Make sure athletes are jumping, landing, stopping and moving with their knees directly over their feet. Do not let the knees collapse inward.

• Work with athletes to develop strength in the hips, thighs and core. These are important in helping to keep knees in the proper position when practicing or in competition.

• Ensure a proper warm-up to get blood circulating to your muscles before games and practice. A proper cool down is also important to assist in recovery.

• Have athletes perform a variety of drills until movement patterns and proper body positioning are second nature.

• Give your athletes a chance to rest. Training at a high intensity in a single sport 52 weeks a year is not ideal for any athlete, especially young athletes. Alternate sports and vary intensity from season to season. When possible, take a break between seasons.

Proper movement patterns are so important in ACL injury prevention. “Customized strength and movement pattern exercise programs are key to helping athletes stay healthy,” says Lisa Callahan, M.D., medical director, Women’s Sports Medicine Program, at Hospital for Special Surgery. “Each athlete will have a different base of strength to build from, so it’s important that coaches and trainers develop the best program for that individual to help ensure proper body mechanics.”

For more information about ACL injuries and prevention exercises, visit www.hss.edu/ACLtips.


About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the eighth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2017-2018). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The culture of innovation is accelerating at HSS as 130 new idea submissions were made to the Global Innovation Institute in 2017 (almost 3x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute is the world’s leading provider of education on the topic on musculoskeletal health, with its online learning platform offering more than 600 courses to more than 21,000 medical professional members worldwide. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.


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