With their eyes closed, Arundel County high school spring sports coaches practice balancing on one foot in an excercise aimed at preventing ACL injuries. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Before the start of every sports season, Greg LeGrand, supervisor of Anne Arundel County athletics, gathers all of the coaches from the county’s 12 high schools. There are always new rules or protocols that need to be addressed, and the meetings help ensure everyone has the appropriate information. 

For the spring coaches’ meeting, held earlier this month at North County High School, LeGrand wanted to try something different. He instructed the coaches to show up ready for a workout.  

Like many involved in high school athletics, LeGrand has witnessed an increase of torn anterior cruciate ligaments, particularly among girls. The average recovery time from ACL surgery is six months to a year, an entire season lost for most high school athletes.

So, after the nuts and bolts of the meeting were covered, LeGrand turned over the microphone to staff members from MedStar Harbor Hospital Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy. Their presentation opened with some staggering statistics: One out of every 10 female college athletes will suffer an ACL tear, and of those, one out of four will suffer the injury again, either to the same or opposite ligament.

The good news, said the MedStar staff, is that some of those tears can be prevented.  “We feel like we can reduce the number of ACL tears we have,” physical therapist Carissa Colangelo said. “Doing an ACL injury prevention program you can reduce the risk up to 80 percent.”

Midway through the presentation, coaches were called onto the stage. For the next 15 minutes, while several physical therapists weaved through the group, the coaches practiced the proper techniques of balancing and jumping.

The MedStar staff hopes that knowledgable coaches can begin implementing warmups that incorporate the exercises and techniques demonstrated. Colangelo said many injuries can be prevented if athletes are taught, for example, how to land on uneven surfaces “before they’ve engrained really poor patterns and poor motors habits.”

“They want to hear that it will make you a better athlete. That it’s going to make you bigger, faster, stronger,” Colangelo said. “And the research has shown that ACL intervention programs do have those effects as well.” 

8for More high school coverage: Go to allmetsports.com. Email ideas for More Than a Game to sandyst@washpost.com