SoCal doctor develops program to reduce ACL tears for female athletes

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Doctor develops program to reduce ACL tears for female athletes
Dr. Bert Mandelbaum has developed a program to help reduce ACL tears for female athletes.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (KABC) -- Orthopedic surgeons started noticing an alarming trend years ago: more and more young female athletes were tearing their ACL, and then re-tearing their ACL after surgery and rehab.

Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, an orthopedic surgeon at Santa Monica Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Group and co-chair of medical affairs at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, spent years figuring out why young women re-tear their ACLs more often than young men.

He found an answer and developed a program to keep it from happening in the first place.

Jaimie Goodwin, a regular on "So You Think you Can Dance," has torn her ACL three times, most recently during taping last in 2016.

"More and more, I saw myself slipping out of alignment when I was dancing and jumping, and then one night I lay down and pushed myself up and my knee just popped right out," Goodwin recalled.

Mandelbaum's research found that 5 to 25 percent of young female athletes will re-tear their ACL after surgery.

"The major factor was complex neuromuscular control," Mandelbaum explained. "The way young girls have been programmed, hardwired to land and jump."

Mandelbaum calls it "dynamic valgus." The femur internally rotates, pushing the leg out of alignment and overloading the knee, often tearing the ACL.

He's retraining athletes, like Goodwin, to move safely. In a demonstration, her leg was aligned from hip to foot, supporting and protecting her knee.

Goodwin used Mandelbaum's "hip strategy" to rehab. It's a program of plyometrics, stretching, muscle balance, and hip strengthening that works for all kinds of athletes.

"We want them to habituate their bodies to a whole different level of function, to relearn how to land, jump, decelerate in a more safe fashion," Mandelbaum explained.

Mandelbaum said the program has been effective. He saw an 88 percent reduction in ACL tears in year one of a study and 74 percent in year two.

"I think that alone has totally reset my foundation and I feel much safer moving in to my dance career from here," Goodwin said.

Mandelbaum's preventing injury program, enhancing performance or "PEP" program is a 15 to 20 minute warm-up that's been embraced by all levels of athletes, even pro soccer players with FIFA. The NFL is also taking a look at it now. Anyone can get it for free on his practice's website here.