We don’t just fix injuries, we also prevent them

When Katie Landgrebe broke her femur in a tournament soccer game in seventh grade, little did she know it would help her become a high school athletic star.

She came to the Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center at Cincinnati Children’s for physical therapy. She wanted to recover, get stronger and avoid more injuries.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s were interested in studying young athletes like Katie. They wanted to know why female athletes were up to six times more likely than boys to tear their ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament that runs through the center of the knee and is one of the primary stabilizers of the joint.

Jensen Brent, a biomechanist at Cincinnati Children’s and director of the training and injury prevention programs, watched her form and challenged her to work harder. He showed her ways to strengthen her muscles and keep from getting hurt.

She continued training while she played on the varsity soccer team as a freshman at Madeira High School. “Her coach took notice of the training and decided it would be a good fit for the whole team,” Brent says.

At the time, several team members had torn their ACLs.

“That was sort of scary and really detrimental to our season,” Katie says. “Coming here gives us a lot of confidence and makes you feel like those injuries aren’t going to happen as often, and they don’t.”

Brent taught them to improve their core muscles and flex their knees deeply during landing and changes in direction to avoid ACL injuries. Research found that improving their biomechanics while strengthening under-used muscles, such as the hamstrings and gluteal muscles, would help.

That freshman year, the Madeira girls’ soccer team had its best season ever. The team made the final four that year and the next. They made the “elite eight” Katie’s junior year. And last season, they won the state championship. Katie is going on to play soccer this fall at Northwestern University.

Dan Brady, girls’ soccer head coach at Madeira High School, credits the performance training at Cincinnati Children’s for giving his team an edge.

“It helped us more mentally than it did physically to know that we could train at such a high level,” he says. “It correlated onto the field. The training is hard, and we play hard.”

The summer group sessions for athletes were fun but competitive and pushed his team in the right way, Brady says. “The girls talk about wanting to go back, and that’s always great for a coach to know that people want to become better.”

The program also makes Cincinnati Children’s a place where young athletes can come for more than just injuries,
Brent says.

“Performance training helps to complete our department because it allows us to work with athletes not only when they are injured but also when they are healthy,” he says. “We follow them and make sure they are the best and most healthy athlete they can be throughout their career.”

Watch online as Katie Landgrebe talks with her coach and her sports medicine trainer about how training at Cincinnati Children’s changed her game.