ACL Play It Safe


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — There are about 250,000 ACL injuries every year … especially for young men 20 and under and men older than 40. Learn about a program designed to prevent ACL injuries for all ages.

You name it, Kay Acton does it. The 56-year-old avid runner is also a skier, hiker and cyclist … until a 2017 ski accident forced her into a time-out that hurt in more ways than one.

Acton explained, “My legs were a little tired and it was a little icy and I fell as I was going down. My left ski released, my right did not and immediately I felt the tear.”

Kay tore her ACL.

Trent Nessler, PT, MPT, DPT, National Director Sports Innovation, Select Medical, said, “When an athlete is fatigued, they are more likely to get injured.”

That’s why Nessler designed the ACL ‘Play It Safe’ program. It takes several approaches, including pre and post exercise routines, resistance bands and a rubber stability trainer. It also forces you to train when you’re already tired.

Nate Bower, PT, DPT, SCS, Champion Sports Medicine shared, “They perform stability and dynamic control exercises, which just continue to stress the body in a fatigue state.”

An Australian Study confirmed that soccer players who trained in a fatigued state suffered fewer hamstring injuries than the players who were non-fatigued.

Nessler continued, “What we found is that if we trained them in that fatigued state, they actually carry that over better to their actual performance on the field.”

After surgery, Kay took part in the program and is now back on the slopes. She had a faster recovery time than her identical twin sister who tore her ACL just four days before Kay did.

“This program again was more aggressive and also gave me more ammunition to take with me when I do my other activities. I’m really proud of where I am now,” said Acton.

Nessler has implemented this program at a couple of college level sports teams and have seen a 60 percent reduction in lower extremity injuries and a reduction of time lost out of the game due to injury by 40 percent. His program offers a free app called ACL Play It Safe that includes a training video available on IOS and Android.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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REPORT #2543

BACKGROUND: An ACL injury is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the major ligaments in your knee. These injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops, jumping or changes in direction such as basketball, soccer, football, tennis, downhill skiing, volleyball and gymnastics. Many people hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when an ACL injury occurs. Your knee may swell, feel unstable and become too painful to bear weight. Depending on the severity of your ACL injury, treatment may include rest and rehabilitation exercises to help you regain strength and stability or surgery to replace the torn ligament followed by rehabilitation. A proper training program may reduce the risk of an ACL injury. This type of injury certainly has the potential to occur in other aspects of life as well. It is an injury that is by no means limited to those who play sports, even though physical activity naturally lends itself to an ACL injury.

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CURRENT ACL TREATMENTS: The exercises in the Play It Safe Program have been specifically selected from research and have been shown to drive improvement in the movements associated with non‐contact injury risk. These exercises are put together in a sequence to allow progression from poor movement to high proficient skilled movement. It not only reduces injury risk but has a significant impact on athletic performance. When a program that addresses these mechanics is implemented as a regular part of practice, there is not only a reduction in ACL injuries but also an almost 50 percent reduction in all lower kinetic chain injuries. In an effort to standardize the way these exercises are implemented in an athletic setting, the Play It Safe Kit includes everything that is needed to ensure this is the case. These kits are intended to provide everything the athlete needs to perform the exercises with proper form throughout the season. This is an aggressive form of training and should only be used with the non‐injured athlete or athletes’ who are rehabilitating. Trent Nessler, PT, MPT, DPT, National Director of Sports Innovation, Champion Sports Medicine has implemented this program for soccer athletes at Samford University and volleyball and football athletes at Troy University.


NEW RESEARCH IN ACL REPAIR: Bio-enhanced ACL repair, using a tissue engineered approach to stimulate healing, is one strategy Martha Murray, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Professor in Orthopedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School is using. Through a series of studies, her team compared ligaments that do heal with ligaments that don’t to find out where the differences lie. They found when the MCL tears, a blood clot forms between the torn tissue ends and serves as a bridge for the tissue to heal back into. However, for the ACL, the joint fluid prevented the blood from forming a solid clot, so there was no structure rejoining the two ends of the ligament, and no structure for the torn ends to heal into. They worked on developing a scaffold that could be placed between the two torn ends of the tissue to use as a substitute bridge. After trying multiple materials, they found a protein-based scaffold that would work. The new technique involved taking the protein scaffold and loading it with a few cc’s of blood and placing it in between the torn ends of the ACL. The scaffold would make the blood clot and hold it in place long enough for the ACL to heal. “If these same results hold up in human trials, we will have developed a less-invasive and improved method for treating patients with ACL tears,” Murray explained.


* Contact:  Trent Nessler, PT, MPT, DPT                                    Lauren Fulton, Media Relations                           

(615) 533-8437