Sometimes knee injuries happen from a collision especially if you play a contact sport like football or soccer. But, just as often, a player is running down the field, suddenly changes direction and ends up in a heap on the ground grabbing his or her leg. Each year there are over 80,000 Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries and 70% of those occur in non-contact situations in people between the ages of 15 and 25. And, when this happens to a kid, it can not only ruin his or her sports future but can turn into a lifelong knee problem.
So, what can you do to prevent non-contact knee injuries in kids? Most coaches and trainers will put kids through pre-season conditioning to try to strengthen the leg muscles and make sure they have adequate endurance. But, the problem isn't just a lack of leg strength. It's something else.
You have to train the brain.
In a study conducted at the University of Michigan, researchers had subjects perform single leg squats (one leg only) to fatigue and then tested their reaction time to a variety of commands and situations. The researchers discovered that both legs showed reaction patterns consistent with injury to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament even though only one leg was actually fatigued.
The fatigue was not just in the leg but in the brain. This is called "central fatigue".
Your brain is responsible for reaction time, balance, coordination - all the things you need to help protect your knee and things you can train just like you train your muscles to get stronger.
Ideally, kids should be tested for deficits in strength, reaction time, and balance. And then in addition to lifting weights, kids need to practice movements, balance, and reacting to unexpected visual or auditory cues. They need to train their brains as much as they train their muscles.
Oh, and this isn't just for kids either. We all could use a little brain training.
PS - For those of you with kids in sports, Sports Center is offering a sports performance screening clinic on Saturday, August 8, 2009 from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM. This is a great opportunity to have your child, age 12 to 18, screened prior to the start of the fall sports season. Call 512=206-0433 for more information and to reserve a spot for your kid.