Anatomy of a takedown: CHLA's high-tech approach to healing student athletes

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
CHLA spreading high-tech approach to healing student athletes
At the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, high-tech motion analysis is allowing student athletes to return to form.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Competitive sports puts millions of student athletes at risk of serious injury every year. Many return, only to get injured again. At the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, high-tech motion analysis helped one young martial arts champion get back into fighting form.

Now therapists are taking this technology on the road.

"Sometimes it takes strength. It takes quite a bit of technique," said 13-year-old Maddie Tamanaha.

The soft-spoken judo champion is skilled at takedowns. She was eight years old when she started the martial art. Within four years, Tamanaha was preparing for the PanAm Championships, where athletes need to be among the top three nationally to compete.

Weeks before the tournament, she was performing a one-footed throw when she injured her leg.

"My leg got caught inside, like under her leg," Tamanaha said.

She heard a pop. The maneuver ripped her ACL and meniscus. She underwent successful reconstruction surgery at CHLA, but recovery was painful.

"My leg hurts a lot more than when I got it injured," she said.

The main concern for Tamanaha's doctors is that she will reinjure her leg.

"Reinjury rates among pediatric athletes is very high," said CHLA physical therapist Mia Katzel.

CHLA's Motion & Sports Analysis Lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technology designed to study athletes in action. Katzel teaches Maddie how to move safely.

"When she lands or jumps or takes off and changes direction, we need to see that her knee is not diving inward towards her big toe, we want to keep her knee over her third toe," she said.

Katzel and her team are partnering with USA Judo to bring this technology to different tournaments.

"If we can first identify them and tell them what is at fault, then we can tell them how to fix it," Katzel said.

At upcoming "Healthy Judo LA " events, the focus isn't just on proper biomechanics to prevent injury. CHLA experts from behavioral health, sports medicine and nutrition take a holistic approach to developing healthy well-rounded athletes.

"Looking at what is proper nutrition the day of an event. Topics like bullying, psychological readiness, those kinds of things which are important parts of a full athlete," she said.

Thanks to her physical therapists and guidance from the Motion & Sports Analysis Lab, Tamanaha is cleared to compete and ready to take on the world.

"It's worth it when you head back because it's what you love to do," she said.