The science of sports injury prevention

Over 100 Burlington Township High School athletes participated in a series of evaluations aimed at gathering actionable data on individual body movements that will be used to prevent future sports injuries.

Burlington Township High School ninth grader Tyler Davis participates in the Sparta Science Jump Scan, which defines a person’s ability to start, transition and finish a movement.

Nothing throws a wrench into a high school athlete’s sports career like an injury on the field. Even injuries we might consider relatively minor like contusions, sprains and strains can take a player out of the game for weeks on end.

Burlington Township High School recently teamed with Davis Physical Therapy & Sports Rehab and Fulcrum Performance with an aim at addressing and minimizing student athletic injuries through a new program.

On Tuesday, June 11, more than 100 BTHS athletes who will be participating in fall sports took part in a series of tests meant to evaluate them while performing different movements to detect muscular imbalances in the body.

According to public relations coordinator for the school district, Liz Scott, the initiative was funded through a Burlington and Camden County Educators Insurance Consortium insurance grant.

The data gathered during these evaluations will be interpreted by physical therapists and physiologists to determine measures and exercises each athlete can incorporate into his or her daily exercise routine. By performing corrective movements and exercises catered specifically to their individual needs, the athletes will hopefully see an increased level of injury prevention while participating in their sport.

Dr. Andrea Davis, owner of Davis Physical Therapy & Sports Rehab, has been in the physical therapy field for 21 years. She brings her own experience as a lifelong athlete and former coach at La Salle University to the table when it comes to her profession.

“We’re going to take all of the data that we accumulate today, analyze that data, package it for the athletic director and then meet with the coaches and facilitate giving them a mini plan that they can incorporate into their practice routine,” said Davis.

For their evaluations, wireless movement sensors were adhered to the participating athletes’ legs to measure angles, stability and balance activity through various movements.

“We started using this system about two years ago, it’s a wireless sensor system,” said Davis. “We place two small sensors on the shins and it gives us anatomical feedback as to stability or instability of the knee, how far the knee is collapsing in or out within a couple of degrees, also how far the knee is pitching forward and how fast it’s wobbling while they go through these squats and jumps.”

During the jump scan, athletes stood on a force plate and were evaluated as they started, transitioned and finished a standing jump movement. Three variables were measured during the jump: load, explode and drive.

Load is the first movement measured representing an individual’s ability to generate force. Explode is the transition stage which measures an individual’s ability to transfer force. Drive represents an individual’s ability to finish movements smoothly.

The balance scan assessed athlete’s global balance, body awareness and body control, measured on each limb. This scan was also performed on a force plate while the individual being assessed participated in two 20-second balance trials standing on one leg at a time.

Several athletes also participated in a running analysis that produced data, including ground reaction force, ground contact time, right vs. left impact, initial peak acceleration, total distance, average speed and splits.

BTHS athletic director Peter Teifer had been working with Davis for some time organizing the day’s evaluations and the two will continue to collaborate once the data has been processed. He is looking forward to using the information to address some of the most common injuries he sees among athletes at the high school level.

“Particularly with high school athletes when they are going through growth spurts, going through maturity, a lot of them are over training. They do a lot of repetition stuff so a lot of them are getting overuse injuries,” said Teifer. “When (coaches) see the data they can see if there are imbalances and they will be doing exercises to help correct those imbalances.”