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'You can tear your ACL in an instant': Why local doctors say sports soft tissue injuries are 'skyrocketing'

Without OTAs, minicamps, preseason games or scrimmages, soft tissue injuries like ligament tears, muscle strains, and pulls are hard to avoid.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — On a Wednesday afternoon at Plaza Physical Therapy in Davenport, Assumption sophomore Piper Seberg is one rep and one step closer to returning to sports. 

"Piper is in phase four, so she's progressed quite a bit," said Matt Rokes, Seberg's physical therapist. "We're going to be doing a lot more strength based stuff."

A few months ago, Piper tore her ACL on the soccer field. 


 "The big thing is range of motion and getting that quad to function," said Rokes while working with Seberg. "If we can get that going as soon as possible, that's our main goal."

Seberg is close to getting cleared, but many aren't as lucky.  


 "Because we have football, soccer starting, some training for basketball, we do see a lot of knee injuries from either contact or non-contact injuries." said Dr. Kristyn Darmafall, a sports orthopedic surgeon in Davenport. 

Dr. Darmafall says she's seeing more and more soft tissue injuries with the return to sports. 

"ACL tears, meniscus tears, pulling your hamstring, your quad tendon, getting muscle injuries like that." said Dr. Darmafall. 

At the local level, but also on a much bigger scale like in professional sports. 

"The rate of hamstring and quad tendons where they get pulled is very, very high," said Dr. Darmafall. "We're seeing a large number of increase in ACL tears that has sky rocketed compared to a regular season."

Soft tissue injuries are depleting the NFL in particular. 

In Week 2 of the season, dozens of players went down with muscle strains, sprains, tears, pulls, or worse. 

"Sunday, we had seven stars in the NFL tear their ACL in one day," said Dr. Darmafall. "It's sad. It's a big injury. It takes a long time to come back from. They're skilled athletes so they'll be able to. But you can foresee it a little bit, knowing that our preseason training and conditioning has been different."

No OTAs, minicamps, limited conditioning opportunities, and no preseason games or scrimmages are mostly to blame. 

"That moment where it crosses midline, that moment can tear your ACL which is the same motion when you go to do a quick turn," said Dr. Darmafall. "If you don't have the muscle to control the thigh and the knee, you can tear that ACL in an instant." 

But the outlook is good. Athletes start physical therapy almost immediately after surgery. 

"Our injury reduction exercises include our band walks, our hip strengthening, stability," said Rokes. "We try to make sure we are doing global mobility stuff, but also making sure we do things like hurdle hops and things like that." 

With the right training and preparation post-injury, athletes like Seberg should make a full return.