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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: ACL injuries on the rise in youth sports

Dear Athletic Support:
When I was a high schooler in the 1980s, ACL injuries were almost unheard of, especially in younger athletes. My son is a 9th grader. Last football season, one of his teammates suffered a torn ACL as a result of a solid hit. This season, playing on turf, a teammate went down and tore his ACL without any contact at all. In your opinion, what has led to the rash of ACL injuries in youth sports? New turf fields that don’t give like grass? Never-ending year-round play wearing out these young still developing bodies? I must say, I’m more than a little concerned about my son’s safety. Is there anything I can do to better protect him?

— What’s Going On?

Dear Going On: Since the 1980s, overall traction has improved by leaps and bounds across all levels of football. And it’s that simple fact alone that’s causing the rise in ACL injuries.

Now, before anybody goes tearing up their new turf field, let me be clear —- it’s not just the turf that’s causing this problem.

Cleats are also to blame.

Back when you were playing, Astroturf was probably the only kind of turf around. This stuff is a far cry from what our kids play on today. Astroturf was basically concrete with a thin, green carpet laid out over it. Athletes who played on this surface wore special types of cleats called “turf shoes.”

Shoes were very different from the cleats kids are wearing today. There weren’t any spikes, but instead just a kind of bumpy sole.

Fast forward to today, and the spikes on cleats are longer than ever. Couple that with the fact that turf fields have amazing drainage systems, and you start to see why traction has increased so drastically.

The physics of the problem is simple: If a player’s cleats get stuck in the ground, and then his knee twists in a way a knee isn’t meant to twist, something’s got to give. More often than not, that something is the ACL.

If your son is going to be playing a majority of his games on a turf field, one thing you might consider is purchasing a pair of turf-appropriate cleats. An easy way to tell if a cleat will be a good option for turf is if the sole of the shoe is “molded.”

This just means there aren’t any screw-in spikes. The screw-in style of cleats have longer spikes and are much better suited for grass fields.

You might even consider getting your son a pair of turf cleats along with a pair of grass cleats. I realize this is not something every parent can afford for their child. But if we’re talking about safety, it’s the way to go.

Outside of athletics, kids’ brains are also at risk. Who knows what sort of impact virtual learning will have on their cognition and critical thinking skills. In this regard, I offer one simple tool — a good book! And luckily, I know just the book for kids struggling with the shift to virtual learning:


books make brainz taste badOkay, you caught me… I’m the author of this book. It was published last week and awarded a #1 New Release ranking on Amazon. BMBTB deals directly with the same topic covered in this column, except in a much more lighthearted, kid-friendly way (zombie teachers and brain-munching screens!)

If you end up purchasing this book for your children or grandchildren, I only have one final suggestion — ask them to read it while standing up!

Eli Cranor's new book Books Make Brainz Taste Bad has just been released. ZOMBIES HATE BOOKS! Especially the zombie teachers at Haven Middle School. That's why they're using VR headsets to fry kids' brainz. Luckily, Dash Storey knows how to save his classmates from the zombie teachers—BOOKS! They make brainz taste bad!

"Eli Cranor has an almost unbeatable advantage. He can remember how it felt to think like a twelve-year-old and he can see the very same events like the adult he is. Don't try to resist this book!"
- Jack Butler, Pulitzer-Prize nominated author

Previous Athletic Support Columns:
• High school hot seat?
Daughter rolls ankle: Time to walk it off?
College football cancelled but my son’s still playing
Shift to virtual learning causing lag in young athletes
What you look for, you will find
Back to school woes
Football guidelines a breeze compared to band
What to do if your season stalls
Left behind
Travel ball leads to constipation
Collegiate sports for fun or money?
No right answer
Sunburns not part of the game
Summertime soreness
Vulnerability is key in uncertain times
Sick of COVID-19
Racial tensions rise as sports gear up again
Silver lining for post pandemic sports
Wearing masks to practice
Coach disappears after season is cancelled
What happens to the team if a player gets COVID-19?
Will there be football in the fall?
With sports gone, son’s grades tanking
Lost without sports
Teddy bears and tessellations
Cornavirus? We’ve got games to play!
Girlfriend getting in the way
A parent’s role when sports are over
Talk to your grandkids, carefully
At what age should sports stop being fun?
What ever happened to going door to door?
Lack of respect for track
Should my son take supplements?
I need your help
Help! My daughter wants to play football
Transferring to a smaller school: the good, the bad, and the ugly
What’s that smell? It’s not as bad as you think
A break from school but not from sports
Should a coach pray with his team?
Coach tells player not to shoot
Do nice guys (and girls) really finish last?
Coach cancels post-season awards banquet
No cellphones in the locker room!
Fake scholarship signing?
Withholding football as punishment
Sick and tired of losing
Late bloomer, a blessing or a curse?
Scholarship hopes dead, now what?
Is my son a butterfly chaser?
Don’t force sports on your kids
Hunting or Football?
Beat the Heat
Idle Hands
Coach’s son gets special attention

Published September 5, 2020

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