Watch the derby girls from the Seattle Derby Brats, the largest junior roller derby league in the Northwest, whiz around the roller rink at high speeds, weaving meticulously between skaters and occasionally crashing to the ground, and it’s understandable why safety is a priority for the league. When the Seattle Derby Brats, reached out to Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Athletic Trainers Program, they were hoping to implement a program that would keep the girls safe at practices and matches. But what they got was much more than that.
Seattle Children’s athletic trainers provide an innovative type of customized care that not only treats injuries, but reduces them as well. For the derby girls, that customized care helped prevent a common injury they’re at greater risk for sustaining: tearing their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Prevention is key: ACL Boot Camp
ACL injuries are one of the most common types of knee injuries for athletes, and girls are 8 to 10 times more likely than boys to tear an ACL, with female athletes between the ages of 15 – 20 accounting for the largest number of ACL injuries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Fortunately, research has demonstrated that specific types of physical training can reduce the risk of ACL injury as much as 72%, especially in young women. And it’s these types of training techniques the athletic trainers put into a program for the derby girls.
Seattle Children’s athletic trainers took the derby girls through a six to eight week ‘ACL Boot Camp’ program to help prevent injury by focusing solely on plyometrics and strengthening exercises that isolate the knee and make it stronger. In addition to strength training, they also focused on increasing flexibility and teaching the girls how to land properly.
“It’s an important program for any young female athlete to go through and we thought the derby girls would really benefit from learning how to protect themselves from this injury,” said Tara Peerenboom, an athletic trainer at Seattle Children’s.
“We participate in a full-contact sport,” said 17-year-old Aslin Clagg, who goes by “Azonic,” her roller derby name. “The athletic trainers are our safety net. They understand the sport and our needs and know how to keep us healthy. They know what injuries are common to our sport, and I take full advantage of their expertise.”
Working with athletes across the Puget Sound
In addition to the derby girls, Seattle Children’s Athletic Trainers Program works with a wide array of young athletes in the Puget Sound area year-round to help prevent, assess, treat and rehabilitate injuries. Whether it’s evaluating a varsity football player for a potential concussion on the sidelines during a game or wrapping the ankle of a soccer player before practice, the athletic trainers are well equipped to care for athletes of any age, in any sport.
“The end goal is to keep kids safe and in the game,” said Philip Heywood, manager of Seattle Children’s Athletic Trainers Program. “From soccer to roller derby, we help kids perform their best.”
In 2013 alone, the athletic trainers in the program treated more than 300 athletes with concussions, taped more than 23,400 athletes and referred more than 400 young people to Seattle Children’s for clinical care in areas ranging from cardiology to rheumatology.
Protecting more than just young athletes
It’s not only the athletes that benefit from the professional care the athletic trainers provide. They also give parents peace of mind. And although the athletic trainers can’t take all the credit for the minimal injuries the derby girls have sustained this year, there’s definitely a correlation.
“The hands-on care the team receives is evident,” said Nora Wheat, a roller derby mom whose daughter has competed in roller derby for four years. “Injuries are a reality in any sport. As a parent you’ll never feel 100% at ease when your child is in a contact sport, but the trainers make me feel much better because I know my daughter has the tools to protect herself from injury, and if she does get injured, the trainers will be there by her side.”