Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Accident Prone? Scientists Link Brain Function To Knee Injuries

Date:
July 20, 2007
Source:
University of Delaware
Summary:
A torn anterior cruciate ligament is among an athlete's most-dreaded injuries, often requiring surgery and months of rehab. Curiously, most athletes aren't injured in a tackle or collision, they actually "do themselves in" -- they end up injuring themselves landing off-balance during a jump or run. But why? In the first study of its kind, University of Delaware scientists show that differences in brain function may be to blame, predisposing some of us to "noncontact" knee injuries.

Charles Buz Swanik, assistant professor of health sciences at the University of Delaware.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Delaware

A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is among an athlete's most-dreaded injuries, often requiring surgery and months of rehab, as has been the case with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Related Articles


While being tackled in football or hurtling into an embankment on an icy ski course can tear this major knee ligament, most athletes actually “do themselves in”--they don't collide with a person or object, they end up injuring themselves when they land off-balance during a jump or run.

But why?

In a first-ever study of its kind, University of Delaware scientists have shown that differences in brain function may be to blame, predisposing some of us to “noncontact” knee injuries.

The research, which involved scientists from UD, Michigan State University, West Chester University and St. Joseph's University, is reported in the June edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

“We had some data from previous research which suggested that these noncontact knee injuries occur when a person gets distracted or is 'caught off guard,'“ Charles Buz Swanik, the UD assistant professor of health sciences who led the study, said. These awkward movements have the biomechanical appearance of a knee buckling, but can be reproduced safely in the lab to study how people mentally prepare and react to unanticipated events.

“This made me wonder if we could measure whether these individuals had different mental characteristics that made them injury-prone,” Swanik said.

To identify subjects for their study, the researchers administered neurocognitive tests to nearly 1,500 athletes at 18 universities during the preseason. This testing also provided baseline data for athletes who might sustain a concussion after the season started, Swanik said.

Visual memory, verbal memory, processing speed, and reaction time all were assessed.

For example, a color-matching test was used to measure reaction time and processing speed. Each athlete was asked to click in a box as quickly as possible only if the word “red” was displayed on the computer screen in a red color, not if the word appeared in the color green or blue.

After the season started, a number of the tested athletes ended up sustaining noncontact ACL injuries. These athletes were identified, and 80 of them were matched up to a control group of 80 noninjured athletes according to height, weight, age, gender, sport, position and years of experience at the college level.

Male and female athletes in 10 intercollegiate sports were represented, including football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball, field hockey, gymnastics, wrestling, fencing and softball.

Then the preseason test results from the two groups of athletes were compared.

In analyzing the data, the scientists found that the athletes who ended up with noncontact ACL injuries demonstrated significantly slower reaction time and processing speed and performed worse on visual and verbal memory tests when compared to the control group.

“These results suggest that slower processing speed and reaction time, as well as lower visual and verbal memory performance may predispose certain individuals to errors in coordination during physical activity that can lead to injury,” Swanik said.

But can we do anything to improve our brain function and protect ourselves from injury?

“This study means that there may be an alternative application for neurocognitive testing in the area of injury prevention,” Swanik noted. “It's hard to say at this point how much we can alter these characteristics with training, but certainly the brain has great potential for learning and adaptation. Controlling stress and anxiety must be considered, as both cause changes in muscle tone and concentration and the narrowing of our attentional field,” he said.

“There is likely an optimal state of arousal for each individual to maximize performance and injury avoidance, but future studies will have to determine the relationship between our results and anxiety,” Swanik added.

A follow-up study is now under way in UD's state-of-the-art Human Performance Laboratory with support from the University of Delaware Research Foundation.

“We're trying to identify people who are or are not 'caught off guard' during different landing tasks,” Swanik said. “Then we'd like to match the neurocognitive characteristics of people who are easily distracted or have awkward landings. This would allow us to search for injury-prone or perhaps accident-resistant people.”

So what light might this study shed on Donovan McNabb's ACL injury in that ill-fated game with the Tennessee Titans last November?

“It's a challenge to explain how such a highly conditioned, muscular and coordinated athlete is injured, unless we consider that he was momentarily distracted the instant before his foot contacted the ground, resulting in an awkward landing,” Swanik said.

But McNabb is not alone. An estimated 200,000 anterior cruciate ligament injuries occur annually in the United States, mostly in young, healthy, active individuals.

According to Swanik, it is not uncommon to have one or two ACL injuries every season on a football team, and the incidence is likely even greater on women's sports teams.

“Young women are actually at the highest risk for these injuries, particularly in soccer and basketball,” Swanik said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Delaware. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Delaware. "Accident Prone? Scientists Link Brain Function To Knee Injuries." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070716190754.htm>.
University of Delaware. (2007, July 20). Accident Prone? Scientists Link Brain Function To Knee Injuries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070716190754.htm
University of Delaware. "Accident Prone? Scientists Link Brain Function To Knee Injuries." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070716190754.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins