Athletes can avoid injuries by not leaning the opposite way
when changing direction, Australian researchers say.
Researchers at The University of Western Australia have
found the risk of injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is increased
by particular techniques of direction change.
"Athletes should not use techniques which involve leaning or
turning their body in the opposite direction to where they want to end up, or
placing their foot a long way from the body," says biomechanist Alasdair
Dempsey from the School
of Sport Science,
Exercise and Health. "These body postures are often what you see when an
athlete suffers an ACL injury."
The findings of the research, supported by the Australian
Football League (AFL), were published recently in the journal Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise
ACL injuries can be severe and very debilitating. The
standard treatment involves surgery followed by nine to 12 months of
rehabilitation. After rupturing an ACL sufferers are at increased risk of
re-injuring it later in life, as well as developing arthritis in their knees.
ACL injuries often occur without the injured athlete coming
into contact with another player or piece of equipment. This indicates an
athlete can make changes to sidestepping, which may reduce their risk of
ACL injuries can be high profile—such as that of Sydney
Swans AFL footballer Nick Malceski or Michael Owen at the 2006 FIFA World
Cup—but they occur right down to the grass roots level.
According to the AFL Injury Report: Season 2007 there were
11 new ACL injuries among AFL-listed players last year. "If this
number is scaled up to all Australian rules footballers in the country, and you
assume that similar rates occur in soccer, basketball, netball and other
team sports, then we are looking at a large number of ACL injuries each year,"
Based on measurements of the loads experienced at the knee,
the researchers identified dangerous techniques. Then they tested
athletes before and after six weeks of training to change their method of
sidestepping to try to reduce the loads on the knee.
"We have incorporated these results into a training program
which, in conjunction with the University
of Ballarat, is now being tested on
Australian rules footballers in Victoria and Western Australia,"
Alasdair says. "The work will provide us with more information on the
impact of such training on knee forces, as well as on the number of injuries
Alasdair Dempsey is one of 16 early-career scientists chosen
for Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Federal and Victorian