Select backs new initiative to reduce grassroots football injuries - Select Car Leasing
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Select backs new initiative to reduce grassroots football injuries

Select Car Leasing is proud to be backing a new initiative designed to prevent serious knee injuries in grassroots sport.

Power Up To Play is an initiative launched by SKIPP - a charity founded by medical professionals in response to what it says is a huge rise in knee trauma among youngsters.

Evidence points to a staggering 29-fold increase in hospitalisations for dreaded ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries over the past 20 years in children and adolescents.

Yet Mr Nev Davies, a SKIPP Trustee and Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic and Knee Specialist, says a dedicated short warm up for grassroots athletes - completed twice weekly - could see a 50 per cent reduction in ACL tears.

To that effect, SKIPP has set-up a network of Power Up To Play specialists offering free injury prevention training to grassroots coaches.

And Select Car Leasing, through its partnership with Reading F.C and the Grassroots FA organisation, is joining forces with SKIPP and Power Up To Play to offer the training to dozens of junior football clubs in the Thames Valley region and beyond.

Mr Davies, who knows the pain of an ACL all too well having sustained such an injury himself playing rugby for St. Mary's Hospital in London, says SKIPP acts as a ‘task force’ against a ‘tsunami’ of knee injuries.

He explains: “The main issue here is a knowledge gap and lack of education about the risk of significant knee injuries in young people. And this is the biggest challenge for us - raising awareness.

“This is also a personal journey for me. It’s mind-blowingly devastating seeing these kids in clinic and having to tell them, ‘You’ve ruptured your ligament and you’re not going to be able to play sports for a year’. It’s horrible to see their worlds fall apart.

“And the worry for me as a consultant over the last fifteen years is that it’s not just 25 year olds who are rupturing their ACLs, it’s regularly youngsters aged 13, 12, 11 and even 10 years old.

“Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) gleaned from NHS data show there’s been a 29-fold increase in the number of ACL reconstructions in children and adolescents under the age of 20 years, looking at a period of time between the late 1990s to 2019.

“So for every one person having an ACL reconstruction 20 years ago, there are now 29 young people having the same procedure today.

“Critics might argue, ‘Well, surgeons are performing more ACL surgeries now because diagnostics and surgical techniques are better’.

“Well, that might be the case, but they’re still happening at an alarming rate and it seems to be getting worse”.

The ACL is a ligament inside the knee which joins the thigh bone to the shin bone. It is most at risk of being torn when playing sports which involve sudden changes of direction - such as football, netball or rugby.

Devastatingly, the majority of those who’ve suffered an ACL injury go on to develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) in later life.

So why are more kids suffering from ACL ruptures now compared with previous generations?

Mr Davies and the Power Up To Play team attribute at least some of the injuries to a decrease in the ‘physical literacy’ of children. He points out there’s also nothing in the GCSE Physical Education curriculum about injury prevention.

He adds: “My generation generally played outside much more. Kids today tend to spend a lot of time sedentary, stuck on screens, and they’re then suddenly playing highly organised competitive sport. You can see the importance of being warmed up in these scenarios.

“There’s also something called ‘super specialisation’ where, for example, if a child shows promise in one particular sport, then that is all they play from a young age , whereas we know from data from the States that it’s safer for a youngster to play a variety of sports when they’re still developing physically.”

Another particularly at-risk group are teenage girls.

Mr Davies reveals: “Girls’ neuromuscular control can be challenging. It changes with growth, hormones and female puberty that happens sooner than in boys.

“From a landing mechanics perspective, as girls generally have wider hips their thigh bone and shin bone shape tends to be more knock-kneed - which is a weak position in terms of being susceptible to knee injuries.

“From our point of view, all youngsters who play sports - regardless of their sex - should be warming up using this really simple, validated injury prevention programme.

“And my hope is that kids learning this stuff now, go on to coach sports themselves and that creates a generational shift. There are good things to come, but it all takes time.”

The PEP (performance enhancement injury prevention) ACL injury prevention programme recommended by SKIPP takes about 12 minutes to complete and features running, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics (speed and force), and sports-specific exercises.

Mr Davies admits it’s ‘embarrassing’ to admit that the UK is ‘behind the curve’ when it comes to both recognising the growing ACL injury problem and in devising ways to combat it.

He says: “Education is one thing we’re passionate about at SKIPP, another is in getting grassroots coaches to make sure the warm up exercises are being completed correctly and with good form.”

That’s why you can contact SKIPP to request dedicated Power Up To Play warm up tuition from one of their network of specialists at locations across the UK. SKIPP says it’s important that tuition is done face-to-face. The program is also for everyone as it isn’t biased to one particular sport.

By working in collaboration with the Reading F.C Community Trust and the club Academy, as well as other charitable organisations, Select has supported a number of grassroots initiatives designed to improve the lives of young people in recent years.

Select Car Leasing has provided kits for grassroots teams, meals for underprivileged children, and has also given away more than a thousand free tickets to watch Reading F.C at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.

In recognition of those achievements, Select was recently shortlisted for the ‘Grassroots Sports Sponsorship’ prize at The UK Sponsorship Awards 2023.

Mark Tongue, Director at Select Car Leasing and himself a grassroots football coach, is delighted to help spread the word re SKIPP’s aims.

He said: “Here at Select we’re incredibly proud of our support of grassroots sport. In fact, many of the people who work at Select are themselves grassroots sports coaches and managers who truly understand the enormous benefits that come with playing organised sport from a young age.

“That’s why we’re fully backing SKIPP’s Power Up To Play and the work of its medical professionals. And by highlighting the risk of knee injury through our network of Select-backed teams, we hope to be able to make a real difference when it comes to injury prevention. “

SKIPP was founded by a group of Consultants and Physios in Oxford in 2019.

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