By EMILY RILEY
The number of St. Lawrence athletes diagnosed with ACL injuries has grown in the last few years. Athletic trainers and coaches have initiated prevention programs to ensure SLU athletes are less susceptible to ACL injury in the future. However, the question of why ACL injuries have become so common still hangs in the air.
Brenda Crawford, assistant athletic trainer, reported that this year alone 18 St. Lawrence athletes have endured ACL injuries. “Most of our male athletes sustained their ACL tears from contact, which is unavoidable given the nature of the sports. I think many of our female athletes have muscle imbalances that predispose them to ACL injuries,” stated Crawford. Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. A. Martin Clark Jr., commented that from his experience with ACL injuries, “More women get non-contact ACL tears, meaning that nobody ran into them causing the trauma. For men the most common cause is contact.”
Bob Durocher, head coach of the men’s soccer team at St. Lawrence University, noted that the number of injuries seem to have increased in the last five to seven years at St. Lawrence. “I think there are muscle imbalances,” said Durocher. He added that year round play at the youth level with bodies that are unprepared results in overuse of some muscles
and underuse of others.
Clark went on to say that in youth sports nation-wide you find a large number of ACL injuries in the college and adolescent demographics. Therefore, the St. Lawrence athletic department does not stand alone with its high incidence of ACL injuries. “Some just can’t be prevented with the physical strain they are putting on their knees planting and turning,” said Clark.
More women than men tend to experience ACL injuries, emphasized Clark. “For women the common cause of ACL injuries are muscle imbalances, family risk factors, estrogen cycling relationships and different landing characteristics,” he said. Clark added that many non-contact ACL tears occur in soccer, especially in female soccer players who plant, turn and then feel a pop.
“There are very specific exercises that should be performed to prevent ACL injuries, particularly in women, but obviously are very important for both genders,” said Durocher. “I think if you aren’t playing different sports that use other muscles than you really need to have a comprehensive plan,” he added. Durocher stressed a plan that includes strengthening, flexibility, balance training, nutrition and recovery is critical to reduce the risk of injury. Clark advised that preventative steps should be taken to prevent ACL injuries, including strength training around the knees and jumping exercises.
Crawford has launched a strengthening and jumping prevention program for her female teams, which she believes will help reduce the rate of injuries in the future. Exercises are performed weekly and include broad, tuck, wall and squat jumps as well as moving from side-to-side, explained Courtney Cartier, a member of the St. Lawrence field hockey team. “The focus of these exercises is on the form of our bodies as we explode from a resting position. We have been doing a lot of jumping up and down, and side to side, making sure that our feet are align with our hips and that we do not land with our weight on our toes,” said SLU athlete, Emily Viani.
According to Viani, the field hockey coaches and Crawford have seen improvement in the athletes form after only performing the exercises for a couple of weeks. Viani said her teammates agree that the new form has become more natural, and will be beneficial for cutting and running during a game. “It should help the team by improving everyone’s overall stability and knee strength that will ultimately reduce the number of ACL injuries seen in our sport,” said Cartier.
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