Warm-Up's Key To Reducing Knee Injuries

Dawn Green - Special to The Question

Dr. Alexandra Brooks-Hill knows what she's talking about when she says anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injwies have be- come an epidemic among soccer players and ski racers.

She has been treating patients with these injuries through her work as an orthopaedic surgeon, and by the end of her sporting career in field hockey she had undergone five surger- ies on her left knee and two on her right knee. She is facing the possibility of knee replacement surgery in the future, which is why she is so passionate about prevention.

That, she said, has led her to spearhead an ACL injury prevention program in the Sea to Sky corridor.

A pilot project aimed at young athletes, it serves as an introduction to a set of warm- up exercises specifically designed to pre- vent ACL injuries. Brooks-Hill has teamed up with Dr. Sally Clark and physiotherapist Maggie Phillips-Scarlett, from Reach Physio, to deliver education sessions to interested groups in Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish, through the support of the Triboard Health Care Foundation.

Such sessions took place Feb. 7 in Pemberton and last Thursday (Feb. 9) in Squamish. The room in Squamish was packed with soccer players, coaches, parents and community members and the message from the health professionals was clear.

"We dont want you guys to end up in the same situation," said Brooks-Hill at the start of the presentation.

"To give you an idea of how common (ACL injuries) are, take this number - 8o,ooo in the United States," she continued.

"When you take the numbers and break it down, it's one injury for every 2oo exposures. It means that one kid on every soccer team (with an average of 20 players) after the age of 14... will have an ACL injury. That is a dramatic number and if there's anyone in here in a team where it hasn't happened, it just means there's another team where it's happened twice.' 

On a positive note, added Brooks-Hill, a lot of research has proven that if you incorporate specific stretches into your warm-up, you can actually reduce the likelihood of an ACL injury.

"What we are saying is try the 20 minute warm-up, have someone come in and coach the coaches and then you lanow exactly what you are looking for in the warm-up. Let's reduce the number of knee injuries that we have here in the corridor - that's the ultimate goal."

Brooks-Hill said if the program is followed by many teams in the region, so that it becomes commonplace, the impact it will have in reducing ACL injuries is higher than the impact of teeth-brushing on reducing cavities.

The year-long pilot project aims to present the issue to all three communities in the corridor, with Phillips-Scarlett working with a select number of teams in each area to learn how best to implement the program.

"The biggest thing is the trickle-down effect of coaching the coaches and parents, who are on the sidelines and can monitor what's happening," Phillips-scarlett said, adding that from a training standpoint the biggest thing to emphasize is the quality of movement.

"Anyone can do a warrn-up but it's more how they're doing it, specifically the neuro- muscular control. Education is the key - start off on the right foot, so to speak, and get them to buy in and from a quality standpoint, I think that makes a big difference," she said.

Brooks-Hill said the initiative would not have been possible without the assistance of the Triboard Health Care Foundation. Once the pilot project is completed in Aprll, the trio will present their recommendations to the foundation with the hope of garnering more funding to continue their work.

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Article taken from The Question, Feb.16, 2012