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Injury Prevention for Young Athletes

By: Brian Grasso

There are currently over 40 million young athletes in the United States alone participating in organized sports annually. Over 3.5 million sport-related injuries are reported every year as well. The interesting portion of that statistic is that 3.5 million injuries are reported. The number of ‘slight’ hamstring pulls or ‘minor’ inversion sprains that are not reported and dismissed, as ‘no big deal’ is innumerable.

How many of those slight pulls and minor sprains however, lead to more serious injuries due to an alteration in normal gait or mechanics is an impossible debate to wage, but I would suggest that the numbers would be reasonably high.

The crux of the argument as it relates to movement aptitude instruction is clear, however. Anterior cruciate ligament damage in the knee for example, occurs most frequently in three sports – volleyball, basketball and soccer. In separate studies, several factual considerations with respect to ACL injuries have been shown:

  1. Non-contact ACL injuries often occur with the knee at modest flexion along with a valgus motion.
  2. Quadriceps contraction applies an anterior shear force on the tibia, which strains the ACL.
  3. The above mentioned quadriceps contraction can cause an ACL injury if the knee flexion angle is less than 30 degrees and the hamstring musculature does not supply necessary posterior shear force (when functioning well, the hamstrings provide a counter force which pulls the tibia back from any translation forward).

The mechanisms of ACL injuries (non-contact varieties) are most commonly found during the following motions:

  • Landing from a jump
  • ‘Cutting or decelerating to change direction

Landing from a jump and cutting are both skills however, that if taught well, could decrease the injury rates experienced by young athletes. Either many coaches are oblivious to that fact, or they simply lack the knowledge of how to teach these elemental skills in a progressive manner.

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