Jan 29, 2015
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Test Identifies Injury Risk

Fate, karma, or plain old bad luck–these are often blamed when an athlete gets hurt. But a recent study suggests that some lower-body injuries are more predictable than previously thought, and that a simple five-minute test could determine who is most at risk.

Phil Plisky, DSc, PT, OCS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, Residency Program Director and Senior Physical Therapist at ProRehab PC in Evansville, Ind., led a study that examined high school basketball players’ risk of ankle sprains, ligament tears, and other common leg injuries. Tracking 235 players during the 2004-05 season, Plisky and his colleagues found the Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT) was a reliable method for identifying who was most likely to suffer a lower-body injury.

In the SEBT, an athlete stands on one foot and reaches as far as he or she can with the other foot in three directions: 12, 4, and 8 o’clock on a clock face. He or she then repeats the test standing on the other foot. “It requires flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination,” says Plisky.

The study found two variables to be the best indicators of injury risk: the difference between reaches with the left and right legs, and total-reach distance (the sum of reaches in all three directions). Players with more than a four-centimeter difference between left and right reaches were more than twice as likely to suffer an injury than those with a smaller difference. And females whose total-reach distance was less than 94 percent of their leg length were 6.5 times more likely to suffer a lower-body injury than females with scores above 94 percent.

These findings suggest that adding the SEBT to pre-participation physicals could help prevent injuries. “The test identifies at-risk people, who should then go through a more comprehensive assessment by an athletic trainer or physical therapist,” explains Plisky. “From there, we can recommend specific things the athlete can work on to reduce their injury risk.”

To view a video of the SEBT, go to: www.ebppartners.com and click on “Y-Balance Test.”

The study, “Star Excursion Balance Test as a Predictor of Lower Extremity Injury in High School Basketball Players,” was published in the December 2006 edition of the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (Vol. 36, No. 2). To read the full text, go to: www.jospt.org and click on “previous issues.”

N.J. Announces Steroid Test Results

No news was good news in New Jersey this winter, as the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) announced that its first round of random steroid tests uncovered no users. Athletics officials say the results affirm that the testing program is a success.

Last year, New Jersey became the first state to require steroid testing in high school sports following an executive mandate from then-Acting Governor Richard Codey. His order called for five percent of all student-athletes who qualify for postseason competition to be tested, which meant 150 athletes were selected for last fall’s inaugural batch. During the 2006-07 school year, roughly 500 athletes will be tested in all, costing $100,000 split between the state Department of Education and the NJSIAA.

Bob Baly, Assistant Director of the NJSIAA, says that’s money well spent–even if it doesn’t catch a single steroid user. “If we find out that people aren’t doing something illegal because they’re afraid to get caught, then we’re successful,” Baly told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

No other states have yet followed New Jersey’s lead, but several are considering it. In February, a Florida state representative introduced a bill that would implement random testing of one percent of all participants in high school football, baseball, and weightlifting beginning in the 2007-08 school year. And Texas’s lieutenant governor has proposed testing up to 40,000 athletes (roughly five percent of all participants) throughout the school year. The Illinois High School Association has approved a testing program to begin this fall, but funding sources have not been established.

Former NATA President Finds a New Calling

For nearly three decades, Chuck Kimmel was a traditional athletic trainer. He’s a past president of the NATA and the Tennessee Athletic Trainers’ Society and spent more than 25 years as an athletic trainer at Austin Peay State University. But now Kimmel has found a new role, as Lecturer in Health, Leisure, and Exercise Sciences and Director of the Injury Clinic at Appalachian State University (ASU).

“I was very happy at Austin Peay, but when I realized I’d been there long enough to take a full retirement, I thought, well, what do I want to get out of my next job?” says Kimmel, MA, LAT, ATC. “I decided on three criteria. First, I wanted to teach again–Austin Peay isn’t a curriculum school, and I missed teaching from the days when it had an internship program. Second, I wanted to continue practicing as an ATC, because I think it’s important for athletic training educators to be active in a clinical setting. Third, I wanted to move someplace scenic. At Appalachian State, in the beautiful mountains of Boone, N.C., I’ve found all three.”

Kimmel’s position at ASU is a 50-50 split between teaching athletic training courses and rehabbing students at the Mary Shook Student Health Services Center. Because he’s not affiliated with the athletic department he doesn’t work with student-athletes, but most of the injuries he treats are sports-related. “I’ve treated skiers, snowboarders, rugby players–people I had never been around before, and that makes it even more exciting,” he says.

Kimmel thinks his role as a non-athletic-department college athletic trainer may represent a new direction for the profession. “If other institutions look at what’s going on here, they’ll see that athletic trainers can perform a valuable service outside the athletic department,” he says. “I don’t know if it will become a trend, but I hope it will.”

Ice Vests Reduce Core Temperature

A recent study has found that cross country runners who wore an ice vest during their pre-race warmup experienced a smaller increase in core body temperature during competition than other participants. The study, published in the Journal of Athletic Training, followed 18 women from an NCAA Division I cross country team who participated in a race under warm, humid conditions. Nine of the women donned a vest with 22 pouches containing ice packs for an hour immediately before the race, while the other nine wore their normal uniforms. All 18 ingested radiotelemetry sensors to monitor their core body temperature, and readings were taken before and after the race.

Not surprisingly, the vest-wearing athletes had a lower core body temperature at the start of the race, by an average of roughly half a degree Celsius. But the difference was even more pronounced at the finish line: Athletes who had worn the vest experienced an average core temperature increase during the race of 2.12 °C, while the control group experienced an average increase of 2.75 °C.

These results suggest that the cooling benefits of an ice vest can last long after the vest is removed. And a cooler core means a reduced risk of heat stress and other related illnesses, particularly for athletes working out in hot and humid weather.

The performance benefits of a lower core temperature were not examined in this study, but the authors noted that previous research has found pre-cooling to be beneficial only for endurance athletes. “Generally, performance improvements [have been] observed in studies of endurance events,” they wrote, “whereas performance decrements were observed in short, power events. In the future, researchers will need to determine whether the ice vest has any performance benefits.”

The study, “Warming Up With an Ice Vest: Core Body Temperature Before and After Cross-Country Racing,” was published in the winter 2006 issue (Vol. 41, No. 4) of the Journal of Athletic Training. To read the full text, go to: www.nata.org/jat, mouse over “for readers,” and click on “online archives.

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