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Program aims to prevent injuries

Program aims to prevent injuries
Program aims to prevent injuries
Corydon Central athletes form rows to go through a high-knee stretch. Photos by Brian Smith

How is rehab going?
That can be a question no athlete wants to be asked. Oftentimes, the inquiry stems from an athlete missing workouts or games due to an injury.
As science and research continue to advance, a program introduced to Corydon Central High School athletes through Kort Physical Therapy strives to minimize the chance of injury. ACL Play It Safe is a nationwide program developed to primarily address ACL knee injuries.
‘The beauty of the program is it addresses all leg injuries,’ Daniel Love, clinic director at Kort, said. ‘About 70 percent of the injuries that occur in athletes are lower extremity, lower body. It addresses the mechanics that are often leading to those injuries and specifically to ACL injuries.’
Love is the first to tell athletes and coaches the program isn’t easy. It’s part dynamic stretching and part strength training. And, the post-practice part of the program is meant to be performed during a fatigued state.
On March 9, members of the Corydon Central softball team demonstrated the Play It Safe pre- and post-practice routines for Panthers’ coaches of all sports. It wasn’t easy. A few athletes voiced grunts and strains. A few under-the-breath snide remarks were maybe hurled the way of the Kort staff of athletic trainers who were on hand to lead.
‘It’s a hard program,’ Love said. ‘When the girls get through the warm-up, they think they are done, but there is another strength component. When the athletes get done, they should feel like they had a hard workout. It’s a huge hip-burning workout because we know athletes need to have strong hips to focus on these knee movements.’
It’s tough. It’s high intensity. The design of the program is to address the mechanics associated with lower leg injuries while also aiding athletic performance.
‘It’s a full-strength program,’ Love said. ‘I wasn’t joking when I say the kids hate me when they go through it. One of the coaches told me the girls were about to jump me. It’s a hard program and nothing easy to go through.’
High school athletes are targeted to participate in the first of three level options. Love said the second and third levels are intended for college and professional athletes due to difficulty. Examples of level one exercises include pre-practice routines of a dynamic lunge, sumo squat and high knees.
There is no sitting on the floor and stretching out to touch your toes as a form of stretching. Play It Safe is much more active.
‘There is a dynamic warm-up period which most sports are doing,’ Love said. ‘It used to be coaches would do static stretching before practices and games. They would sit and hold for 30 seconds. For the most part, that has been phased out and replaced with dynamic stretching.’
Some of the post-practice routines include single leg hop, planks and doing single leg movements with elastic bands serving as resistance.
‘It does a lot of single leg work,’ Love said. ‘Most lower extremity injuries occur when athletes are in a single leg movement. When you think about cutting (movement) or jumping up to rebound and landing off balance on one leg are what often lead to injuries. This program directly addresses the single leg.’
The pre-practice routine takes about eight minutes to complete and can either replace a team’s current warm-up routine or be incorporated as a mix. The post-practice routine takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
‘The beauty is it doesn’t take a lot of workload from a time perspective for coaches,’ Love said. ‘Once athletes get the program down, it becomes easier to run through it.’
Most importantly, the trainers are keeping an eye on knee placement and making sure each activity is completed with proper form.
‘It addresses the mechanics that are often leading to those injuries,’ Love said. ‘It’s somewhat unique because it’s a program meant to be done under true fatigue state. We want the athletes to be really tired whenever they go through the program, and the program itself can make them really tired. The reason for that is athletes tend to get hurt when they are tired. We want to work on their mechanics when they are in a fatigued state.’
Pairing Play It Safe with a hard workout or practice is the most ideal. Nailing the mechanics of the routine at the fatigue state helps mimic what happens during the late stages of a game.
‘It really works on the form in a fatigued state. It hopes to carry over (to games),’ Love said. ‘It addresses the neuromuscular control of movement. It addresses how the brain sets the body up to move. That’s why when we went over things over and over again. It focused on where we wanted the knee to be.’
Love said the hope is the movements carry over to the playing surface so, when they make a cut or make a jump, their brains put the body in the right position.
Coaches for the Corydon Central athletic programs sat through an overview of the Play It Safe program, asking questions. The school has a strength and conditioning class offered to students as well which can incorporate Play It Safe.
‘The program is national but, to our knowledge, no one in the Southern Indiana, Louisville area has implemented the program,’ Love said. ‘We are offering it through Kort and introducing it to our communities. I talked with (Corydon Central athletic director) John Atkins and Megan School, (Corydon Central’s) athletic trainer about my passion for the program and want to bring it to our community.’
The program has additional offers as well. Many of the Panthers’ softball players went through DorsaVi, an motion analysis assessment using sensor technology. Movements are tracked with the wearable sensors. From there, assessments can help determine risk for injury.
‘We did a screening with the softball team called DorsaVi,’ Love said. ‘Some girls went through it along with the Play It Safe program with the hope that on the tail end we can re-screen those girls to see if they’ve improved their scores from the previous test.’
Injury prevention is the ultimate goal.
‘ACL is a catastrophic injury for a high school athlete,’ Love said. ‘The percentage of kids that recover fully from ACLs is so low so the likelihood of getting a college scholarship goes down along with the likelihood of making a full recovery from the injury is very low.’
Corydon Central assistant football coach Jason Timberlake, who also leads the strength classes, said he tore an ACL as a senior in high school.
‘If we could prevent one kid from going through what I went through, it would be worth it,’ Timberlake said.
As an introductory to the Play It Safe program, Atkins has been on board.
‘The safety of our student-athletes is a major priority; therefore, finding ways to minimize the risk of injury is important to our goal of keeping them healthy and playing,’ Atkins said. ‘The Play It Safe program has been proven to do just that, and we will be looking to implement it into both our strength program and practice routines for each sport.’