Saturday, August 2, 2014

The rise of non-contact injuries

The (latest) injury to Malcolm Mitchell reminded me of a post AHD sent me months ago. I read through it way back in January as well as researched the links within it, but never came around to posting on the topic, perhaps because 2013's lengthy list of injured players was something I just wanted to forget. I mean the Tennessee game alone is enough to send any Dawg fan into an all out hissy fit.

However, Weiszer pointed out a couple months ago that Georgia had the same number of surgeries in 2013-14 as it did the year before, and five fewer than the 27 total of 2011-12. Plus, on the speaking tour this spring, Coach Richt took a business as usual approach:
Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked at a UGA Day speaking stop this spring whether the strength and conditioning program or rehab program is part of the problem.
“Well, I don’t think so,” Richt said. “We do look at that all the time. We do everything we can possibly to get us strong and get them in great condition and also want to do things that aren’t hurting them or stressing them out to the point where they’re susceptible to injury. Who can predict Malcolm Mitchell chest bumping his teammate after that first touchdown of the year coming down and getting an ACL? ACL injuries, which we had a large number of … just about every one of them was a non-contact injury. For whatever reason, you turn the wrong way and get that torque going and just sometimes it goes. That’s just part of it. Some years you hardly have any and this year we had a bunch.”
Regardless, the information pointing to a sharp rise in non-contact knee injuries is a trend that has every sports fan hoping their team's staff is paying close attention. Football in particular is a violent sport. Players are getting stronger and faster every year. But as the source article states, 70% of knee injuries are of the non-contact variety. That points to either a lack of training altogether or a lack of adequate training in order to prevent such injuries.

For instance, in the NFL, 24 of the 32 knee injuries (the ones a camera was able to focus in on) last season occurred during a non-contact situation. As a result, there's a growing sentiment that more emphasis needs to be given towards proper training, regardless of age.
Why does that happen? There are some theories about the limited training camp training due to the collective bargaining agreement. Others will say it’s due to youth players committing to one sport too early as a kid and the repetitive nature of training in one sport is causing ACL tears to happen earlier.
Regardless, one interesting statement of the article which we find clinically true of the players we work with is that “players may be less supervised or less conditioned with more time away from the facility, and have less access to things like ACL prevention programs that use specific exercises to strengthen muscles in the core and around the knee.”
ACL prevention programs should be implemented not only at the pro level, but more importantly at the youth development level. We believe if coaches, strength and conditioning trainers, physical therapists, parents, and players all work together to develop a more committed program that focuses on proper stability of the knee, leg, and core strength, it will significantly reduce the likelihood of ACL injuries. We find that athletes like to train for heavy power lifting without addressing fundamental movement efficiency patterns that allow the leg to work the way it should before power, speed, and agility training.
It will be interesting to see where this trend goes. We may not have access to data coming from the high school level around the country, but we should be able to generate a pulse for this at the college and especially at the professional level this season.

To take that a step further, the NFL's collective bargaining agreement has only taken time away from teams and what they are able to monitor as far as the training of their players. The NCAA on the other hand, has given its coaches more supervisory time - eight hours a week to be a part of their players' training in the summer.

Will this help prevent injuries? We don't know, and to be honest we may never know.

But it can't hurt.