Advancing the Science

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October 25, 2018

Mayo Clinic Research transforming sports medicine through injury prevention research

By Advancing the Science contributor

Dr. Hewett (left) and Nathan Bates, Ph.D., discussing their research in the Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory.

Discovering new, improved ways to meet unmet patient needs is why Mayo Clinic Research exists, and the teams in Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory and Sports Medicine Research are no exception.

Director of both programs, Timothy Hewett, Ph.D., has conducted injury prevention research throughout his career. He published his first prospective study on the effect of an ACL injury prevention program in 1999, and hundreds of articles since. Nearly two decades later, Mayo research continues to support neuromuscular training programs (a combination of plyometrics, strength, agility, balance, and flexibility) to reduce noncontact (indirect contact) knee injuries. Most recently, a meta-analysis conducted by his research team concluded that ACL prevention programs demonstrated an overall 50 percent reduction in the risk of all ACL injuries in all athletes and a 67 percent reduction for non-contact ACL injuries in females.

The evidence collected by these researchers doesn’t just sit on a dusty shelf in a library, or get accessed online only by other researchers looking to expand their bibliography.

Instead, it helped form the backbone of new clinical practice guidelines shared by the Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy and the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy.

Published recently in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, the guidelines provide sports medicine communities with the current evidence and guidelines to prevent one of the most devastating long-term musculoskeletal injuries: anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injury.

These guidelines followed a position statement from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, published in the Journal of Athletic Training earlier this year, and co-authored by Dr. Hewett.

Together, the guidelines and statement expand the scope of the sports medicine communities, embracing preventive medical approaches through neuromuscular training programs for athletes who participate in multi-directional sports (e.g. football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse). This new direction encourages intervention before injury – in an effort to prevent.

“It is a significant first step; however, we have more work to do,” says Dr. Hewett. “Injury prevention research can only go so far. Actual implementations of neuromuscular training programs at local schools require time, effort, resources, and cultural changes by all stakeholders, including athletes, parents, coaches and sports medicine care providers. We are moving in the right direction.”

To get the current sports medicine research findings in the hands (and feet) of those who need them, Dr. Hewett and his team present nationally and internationally. They also host an annual ACL Workshop at Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis (next one is May 16-17, 2019), to teach sports medicine professionals how to implement a research-based neuromuscular training program.

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Tags: News, People, sports medicine, Timothy Hewett

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