How Functional Therapy is Helping Athletes with ACL Injury
By: Hannah Ropp September 12, 2017
Parkland soccer stand-out Ava Hannah has been playing soccer since first grade and is well aware of the risks associated with playing the contact sport. However, it wasn’t until last year that the 15-year-old high school junior suffered an injury.
“I had lost possession of the ball and was going towards the goal when two girls from the other team ran at me from opposite directions, throwing me off balance and causing me to fall,” says Ava. At the time of her injury Ava was playing an away game, and didn’t have her athletic trainers onsite. However, when she saw her Coordinated Health athletic trainer Adam Glose the next day he immediately suspected an ACL tear and referred her to Coordinated Health Orthopedic Surgeon Nick Slenker, MD who is also Parkland’s team physician.
“Examining Ava’s knee that first day I felt some laxity or looseness around where her ACL should keep her knee stable. We immediately got an MRI and it confirmed the diagnosis that I was thinking of, which was an ACL tear,” says Dr. Slenker.
Dr. Slenker told Ava that she would need surgery, which would mean missing the rest of her soccer season. Though Ava was upset, she says that she knew that she would just have to work hard to get back to the soccer field.
Prior to surgery, Ava did physical therapy to strengthen her muscles and decrease her swelling and increase her range of motion. The surgery Ava had done is an ACL reconstruction, which is done as an outpatient procedure. During an ACL reconstruction, a graft is used to replace the torn ligament. According to Dr. Slenker, in young athletes like Ava, their own tissue is generally used as the graft.
Ava’s recovery started the day after her surgery with physical therapy. Dr. Slenker had Ava wear a knee brace for several weeks after her surgery while she was building up her strength. He says that the first six to eight weeks of recovery are spent increasing range of motion and strengthening the muscles through non-impact activity. After the first eight weeks of physical therapy Dr. Slenker moves his patients to more activity focused exercises.
Though Athletic Trainer Adam Glose was involved in Ava’s recovery from the start, he became more involved when she was ten weeks post op. Glose says that he did a few things differently when it came to Ava’s recovery. “I’ve done a number of ACL rehabs in my professional career and this time around we really focused on core exercises and working on core activation and rotary stability,” he says.
Glose says that the core includes the stomach, low back and hips. His belief is that focusing on the core after an ACL injury prevents one side of the body from becoming weaker than the other. Some of the exercises that Glose had Ava do are posterior pelvic tilts and glutte bridges. He says this new method made a huge difference. In just five months her quads were both measuring the same.
These days Ava is back on the soccer field and looking forward to a great season. Glose says he expects to see big things from the her, both on and off the field. “Ava’s super competitive. I see it every day in the small drills that we are doing in rehab. She has been really dedicated to her recovery and I’m really proud of her,” he says.
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