Clinic helps teens suffering from injuries

July 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A program in the East Bay is attempting to cut down on injuries among high school athletes.

This really began when trainers at Children's Hospital in Oakland started taking note of how many young athletes were turning up in their sports injury clinic, with serious problems like ACL tears.

Trainers believe some of those injuries might have been avoided, if the athletes had received the right kind of coaching.

At just 17, Hillary Sullivan has spent more than her share of time in physical therapy.

A mid-fielder on the Bishop O'Dowd girl's soccer team, Hillary has torn ACL ligaments in both her knees.

"It was our quarterfinal game. I went down and I heard it pop," said Sullivan.

Her goal is to finish out her senior season. But this time around, she's doing more than rehabbing her previous injury; she's learning how to prevent the next one.

Trainer David Arakawa works with athletes like Hillary, at the Sports Injury Clinic at Children's Hospital in Oakland. The goal is to not only strenghten the muscles that supports Hillary's knees, but to help her adjust her jumping and running techniques.

"The thing we're looking at in female athletes is that they're landing or jumping incorrectly, have to be able to change direction, cut and decelerate," said Arakawa.

In fact, Children's Hospital has rehabilitated so many young athletes, the program has expanded. The new strategy is to teach injury prevention techniques right on the high school playing field, before athletes wind up in the clinic.

"The knee when bending comes inside the big toe, we know that's improper mechanics," said Bruce Valentine from Children's Hospital.

Valentine directs the program, which is already helping athletes at Berkeley High School. He says trainers observe athletes at practice, and then advise coaches and the athletes themselves on how to correct any problems.

"We might pull an athlete aside and say this is what we need to do, and train in manner that might eliminate poor mechanics," said Valentine.

All with the goal or sparing younger athletes the challenge of battling their way back from an injury like Hillary's.

The program at Berkeley High could be just the beginning. Children's Hospital is in negotiations with about half a dozen other high schools to provide on-site physical therapists.


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