St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute: Injury Prevention Starts with Screenings

June 08, 2017
Brent Mueller, DPT, Advanced Clinician

Recent research shows that approximately 100,000 ACL reconstructions are performed annually on athletes in the high school age group and that 70-80% of these injuries are related to non-contact activities such as cutting, jumping, and landing. We understand that there are factors that are out of our control when it comes to athletes getting injured, however, research is showing that there are factors that can be controlled and improved upon to decrease an athlete's risk of knee and ankle injuries. Muscle length and strength imbalances, core weakness, poor balance, and poor movement patterns can be addressed in the middle school and high school ages to help reduce athlete's risk of injury. 

It seems young athletes are being pushed harder than ever in athletics these days with playing on multiple teams between club and high school sports and playing their sport or multiple sports year round. Athletes often play through minor injuries that, unfortunately increases their risk for more severe injuries. I feel an injury prevention screen should be a vital component for athletes to make sure the risk of injury is maintained as low as it possibly can be as they participate in sports. Just like our vehicles need maintenance from time to time, our bodies also need maintenance. We know that a major injury can sideline athletes for up to a year and at times they are not able to return to their sport. We also know that these injuries can have repercussions down the road with people having higher risks of developing additional musculoskeletal symptoms and early osteoarthritis. My ultimate goal is to keep kids healthy while they participate in their sports activities today, but also to keep them healthy and active in the long-term as they age. 

Injury prevent screens should be sport specific. For the NBC basketball camps we take the athletes through three separate screens. The first determines the athlete's trunk or core stability and control and is a variation of planks. The second looks at the athlete's jumping and landing mechanics to determine if there are poor movement patterns that may place the athlete at higher risk of injury. Finally, the third test is the Y balance test which looks at an athlete's general range of motion, strength, and balance in the lower body. This is the most objective test and there is fantastic research that provides us with specific numerical figures for athletes to meet in order to be at lower risk of injury. If the athlete is able to pass each of these they are at a low risk of injury while playing basketball, if they fell short during a screen and could use some work in an area, I provide brief education with the athlete and provide sample exercises in a handout that they could do to help keep them playing injury free.

Over the last three years that I've had the opportunity to perform injury prevention screens at NBC camps. We've been able to screen 150 athletes ages 10-18 and results help support the need of injury prevention screens and the incorporation of a regular injury prevention routine for our athletes. 82% of the female athletes screened demonstrated poor jumping and landing mechanics which have been shown to be factors for sport related injuries, while only 43% of the males screened demonstrated poor jumping mechanics. Only 20% of the male and female athletes met the passing criteria for the Y-balance test placing them at a low injury risk. Both groups did better with the trunk stabilization screen as 76% of the male athletes screened passed, but the females athletes were lower at a 57% passing rate. My hope is that we begin to see these passing rates rise and sports related injuries decrease as athletes are educated and injury prevention exercise routines make their way into sports programs. 

I've been encouraged with the support I've received from St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute throughout developing this program. I believe it speaks volumes about St. Luke's approach to community outreach and demonstrates how St. Luke's acts out its mission and vision statement. From Team St. Luke's to providing athletic screening opportunities, St. Luke's provides care and resources to multiple patient and client demographics throughout the age continuum.

Below are the dates available for screenings:

  • Complete Player Basketball Camp, June 26 - 29
  • High School Girls Team Camp, July 5 - 8
  • Complete Player Basketball Camp, July 17 - 21
  • Boys All-Star Camp, July 24 - 28
  • Positional Training Camp, July 28 - 30

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Inland Northwest Health Services
601 West 1st Ave.
Spokane, WA 99201

General Info: (509) 232-8100
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