ACL injuries on the rise in female athletes

It’s an injury on the rise in young female athletes. But it hasn’t stopped one local basketball star, who suffered two tears and still rebounded to the top of her sport.

Kauai Bradley, basketball player: “I feel like it helps me express how I feel. When I’m on the court I just play like I’m free.”

Andre Bradley, Kauai’s father: “She came home one day from school with a note saying sign me up to play basketball. Behind closed doors I filled the form out. I was like, ‘Yes! She’s going to play!’”

Kauai Bradley’s parents – both former basketball players – were thrilled their daughter decided to give the sport a shot. It wasn’t long before they saw her potential.

Andre Bradley: “We got her out on the court and saw her dribbling the ball up and down the court. I noticed she didn’t dribble and look at it at the same time. At that point in time I was like, ‘She’ll turn out to be pretty special.’”

At Marion Catholic, Kauai is a stand out. But her career has had its share of ups and downs.

Kauai Bradley: “I went up for a block, and I got bumped into a chair. I was limping.”

At first, it didn’t seem like a serious injury, but a scan revealed an ACL tear.

Dr. Craig Finlayson: “You don’t see any fibers connecting the two bones. That’s indicative of an ACL tear.”

Doctors say they’re seeing the injury more often in girls, whose anatomy and neuro-motor control, which differs from male athletes, puts them at higher risk.

Dr. Finlayson: “The at-risk position occurs during jumping or pivoting. Women tend to land or pivot and they bring their knee in toward the midline and rotate, and that puts a lot of strain on the ACL.”

Kauai had surgery and went through months of rehab to get back on the court. One year later – another tear in her other knee.

Kauai Bradley: “I went up for a block, but I landed wrong. I still played on it, and it just gave out in one of the games. It was hard work and dedication for the rehab, but it didn’t take me that long.”

Within six months, Kauai was back again. But the accelerated track she chose is becoming less common among athletes.

Dr. Finlayson: “There’s a trend now to delaying a return.”

Case in point — Derrick Rose. While fans anxiously wait and call for his return, Rose may be weighing the advantages of waiting it out.

Dr. Finlayson: “At six months, most people have enough strength and agility that they are able to go back to sports, but the real healing process takes one or two years until you’re at the maximum improvement. The advantage to that is really the healing process for the tissue, the bone, nerves have to regenerate, tissue has to remodel. That whole process can take one to two years.”

Now a sophomore, Kauai just wrapped up her first full season with Marion Catholic – and it couldn’t have ended any better.

Kauai Bradley: “I hit the buzzer beater!”

Andre Bradley: “Probably the most proudest moment that I had.”

Kauai Bradley: “We all wanted one thing, which was the state championship. We were just so happy.”

Lurie Children’s offers a Knee Injury Prevention program for young female athletes, coaches and parents. If you’d like to learn more, go to http://www.luriechildrens.org/en-us/care-services/conditions-treatments/institute-sports-medicine/Pages/our-care/knee-injury-prevention-program/knee-injury-prevention-program.aspx

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