No athlete is 100 percent immune from injury – even the best fall down.
Take, for instance, Washington County (Ga.) guard Allisha Gray, who is considered a top 10 girls basketball player for the class of 2013. The North Carolina commit returned to the court in January after being sidelined while rehabbing from an ACL tear suffered last summer.
Gray is hardly an anomaly. Accordingly to the Mayo Clinic, female athletes are significantly more likely to face an ACL tear than are males.
To shed some insight on the matter, we turned to Mike Dew, rehab coordinator at the University of Georgia. Below, Dew breaks down the basics.
What exactly is the ACL, and what’s the aftermath if it gets torn?
Dew:The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the main stabilization ligaments in your knee. When it’s torn, it doesn’t heal on its own. It’s most often addressed with surgery and a lengthy rehab – an average of six to nine months after surgery.
Why is it that ACL injuries are higher among female athletes?
Dew:An ACL tear is definitely the number one injury we see in our female athletes. I can speak to a couple of the theories. There’s been a lot of research and discussion over the years trying to understand exactly why that is.
One thing is body type. Biomechanically, things are a little bit different for females – different knee angles when cutting and jumping.
Number two is muscle activation and response times. Our muscles protect our joints from going directions they don’t want to do. The response in females, on average, has been shown to be a little bit slower in some of those important muscles to prevent that injury.
What sports are more susceptible to this kind of injury?
Dew: Soccer would be number one – and sports that involve a lot of cutting, like basketball, volleyball and some of the jumping athletes in track and field. You don’t usually see ACL injuries among distance runners or sprinters.
What kind of training helps minimize the potential for ACL injuries?
Dew: A lot of jump correction as part of strength and conditioning during the off and preseason.
There are a few groups that have done good studies on jump training – Cincinnati Sports Medicine has a jump program that a lot of people use. We’ve also utilized it at times at Georgia.
Learning how to jump and land addresses biomechanics as far as the angles of your knee when landing. When you land incorrectly, that puts more stress on a ligament.