Beginning this fall, all athletes on Saint Mary’s 17 Division 1 teams and the men’s rugby team (about 360 players) have undergone an injury screening as part of their physicals. Previously available only to women’s soccer, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the protocol assesses athletes’ risk of injury, their recovery from injury, and likelihood of reinjury. Preventing the tearing of the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which means many months of rehab, is a particular goal of Director of Sports Medicine Tony Kearns.
“If we can save even one athlete from having to undergo that hiatus and that surgery, then we have done our job,” said Kearns, who inherited 13 players with ACL tears in 2010 and saw the numbers drop to three last year. As they return to campus, athletes give a health history, and then do a drop box test, jumping off a low box onto one leg. If the knee collapses in slightly, there may be a higher risk of tearing the ACL. Players also do a one-legged triple hop for distance.
“If players can sustain this series of exercises, they are going to be well-equipped for anything that happens on the field, minus blunt-force trauma,” Kearns said. “The ACL numbers are dropping which shows we are asking the right questions, our athletes are following the prescriptions, and our coaches are open and willing to a new train of thought.”