Keeping ACLs Intact

May 22, 2018

At Samford University, wearable motion sensors have helped the women’s soccer team reduce its rate of non-contact ACL injuries.

In the 2017 season, Samford University’s women’s soccer team didn’t have any non-contact ACL injuries. Compared with the eight ACL injuries the squad suffered in the previous three years, this was a drastic change.

A report from WBRC 6 News explains that the reduced rate of ACL injuries came while the team was piloting a study with Champion Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Ala. As part of it, the team used wearable motion sensors that assessed the athletes’ performance and customized workouts aimed at preventing injury.

“Ahead of the 2017 season, we looked at a few things with the program, including time lost due to injuries and direct medical costs,” Nate Bower, PT, DPT, SCS, Market Manager at Champion Sports Medicine, said.

Bower had the team using the sensors within approximately six months of the technology’s availability in the United States. First, the student-athletes completed an initial assessment. For that, they wore the sensors while performing squats, planks, and jumping on one foot.

The student-athletes’ motions were recorded by the sensors, and their movements were filmed, as well. From that information, a computer program assigned a numerical score for each performance.

“ACL injuries are all about biomechanics, and this is the first-time trainers are getting lab-quality data on the field, so they can do real-time assessments to correct bad techniques or harmful movements as they happen,” Trent Nessler, PT, MPT, DPT, Regional Director of Operations for Champion Sports Medicine, said.

After Bower collected the assessment data, he shared it with Brandon Evans, MAE, ATC, Samford’s Head Athletic Trainer. Together, they collaborated with the soccer team’s coaches and student-athletes to create customized workouts to boost flexibility, coordination, and balance.

Besides the decreased ACL rates, the study’s results showed a 50 percent reduction in lower-extremity injuries at the end of the season. The team also reduced the amount of time lost to injuries by 60 percent. This translates to an estimated savings of $30,000 to $50,000 that could be seen in insurance claims, according to research that was conducted by Champion Sports Medicine.

Although other schools are assessing student-athletes with motion data, Samford is one of the first programs to apply this technology for injury prevention.

“We didn’t have our heads in the sand about the ACL trend in women’s soccer,” Evans said. “We really want to do as much as we can to prevent the injuries and keep [the athletes] on the field.”

With the soccer team’s success, Samford is expanding the study to both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The hope is to prevent ACL injuries as much as possible.

“The more people we keep on the court, on the field, the better chance we have of winning,” Evans said.

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