Battling wounded knees
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
On Nov. 12, Falkville's Ashlie Mayer grabbed a rebound in the Lady Blue Devils second game of the season against Mount Hope. She wheeled around and tried to fire a pass down court. As she did, a Mount Hope defender bumped into Mayer. Mayer's right knee turned inward toward her left knee. As it did, Mayer heard a loud popping sound. When the knee straightened back up she heard another loud pop.
On Dec. 15, during a routine day of practice, Hartselle's Tiffahne Orr switched from defense to offense after a turnover. As she planted her foot to change direction down the court, she heard a popping sound coming from her left knee.
On Dec. 28, Hartselle's Shan Jones drove around a pick by Lauren Drake. As she did, Decatur's Shondra McCoy slipped and fell against Jones' knee. Jones went down as the sound from her injured knee could be heard on the court.
All three girls have an experience in common. They have all suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments since the beginning of the basketball season. Orr's injury is considered a non-contact injury, while Jones' and Mayer's wounds are contact related.
Are the injuries an isolated occurrence? Not according to the "American Journal of Sports Medicine."
The AJSM estimates 250,000 ACL injuries in female athletes ages 15-24 occur each year, and more than 100,000 of those require reconstruction.
A NCAA study completed in 1999 found female athletes are three-to-eight times more likely than male athletes to suffer torn ACLs.
Tim Hewett, Ph.D., began researching the trend in 1993 while at the Sports Medicine Research Institute and Human Performance Laboratory at the Children's Hospital Research Foundation in Cincinnati.
Hewett has called the trend an "epidemic."
He wouldn't get any argument from June Seals, head coach of the second-ranked Class 6A girl's basketball team in Alabama.
Seals has seen four of her 11 Sparkman High varsity players suffer torn ACLs since the beginning of the 2004-05 basketball season.
According to Hewett's research there are four main causes of non-contact ACL injuries in females. They are:
Could some of the injuries have been prevented? According to Hewett's research, non-contact injuries like Orr's can be reduced.
Hewett developed a preventative training regiment called PEP, or Prevent injury and Enhance Performance.
The PEP program has shown great promise in several studies. One study in 2000 was conducted in the Coast Soccer League in California, a league make up of 52 teams and over 1,000 female athletes.
All teams were invited to participate in the study.
Coaches, managers and players watched videotapes of the PEP training technique and were encouraged to implement the training.
During the following season, an 88 percent reduction in ACL tears was charted among the teams that used the PEP program.
Jay R. SoloRio, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with offices in Decatur and Hartselle, said the PEP program teaches the athlete the correct landing techniques to prevent injury.
"It teaches them how to land correctly," SoloRio said. "It teaches correct landing posture, and after a while, the correct landings are automatic and the athlete doesn't have to make a conscious effort to think about how to land."
The PEP program consists of a 15-20 minute routine, which includes stretching, strengthening and plyometrics.
For more information on the PEP program contact Dr. SoloRio at 353-8811, or search the internet for PEP.
Mayer said she plans to use the program after her rehab is finished to avoid future injury. Mayer and Orr have already had reconstruction surgery, while Jones will be having her surgery soon.
Orr plays only basketball at Hartselle and her doctor expects her to be back for next season.
Mayer and Jones, both juniors, will miss softball season this year and hope to be back on the court and softball field during their senior year.
According to SoloRio it's unlikely all three girls will play as effectively after surgery and rehab as they did before their injuries.
"Studies have shown more than half of all females who suffer ACL tears never get back to the same level athletically as they were at before the injury," SoloRio said.
"It's why programs like PEP, which help prevent injuries, are so important."