Ali Ottley is three weeks out from surgery to repair her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
"I've had a lot of close calls, but never torn anything before. I was just kinda stunned by it," shared the Pace High School senior.
Ottley was injured in a preseason soccer game.
Andrews Institute orthopedic surgeon Steve Jordan is Ottley's doctor. He said most research shows female athletes are three to five percent more likely than male athletes to tear their ACL. One study puts that number at 10 percent.
Jordan explained that women are more predisposed to ACL injuries because females have wider hips and more narrow knees.
He expanded, "The way you're aligned when you stop, to turn or stop to break, stop to jump, the way you're aligned puts more stress on their ligaments."
Jordan said that some risks can be changed, and some cannot.
"Our job is to try and help identify those kids that are at risk and see what we can do about their risk that can be changed," he said.
Crystal Evans is one of the Andrews Institute provided athletic trainers at Pace High School. Evans is on campus every school day and present for all home games for 14 sports. She said she constantly monitors the female student-athletes under her care, checking to see if they show signs of being prone to ACL injuries.
She said, "We kinda notice the biomechanical issues, anatomical issues that stand out."
Evans is looking for an inverted knee position after a jump, fast stop, or sudden change of direction.
"When you jump, just you bend. You want to avoid that knee in, kinda inside of the toes stance. Make sure that stays on the second and third toe," she said.
Evans said Ottley didn't show such signs and that the midfielder is quite agile and strong, but both are using Ottley's setback to revisit proper form to her teammates.
Ottley said, "I think that they have learned kinda also from this experience. I know they are being more cautious about it."
Dr. Jordan stressed proper warmups and stretching help prevent tears for all athletes.
"It usually involves a little work to prevent, usually involves some preseason conditioning to really make it happen," he said.
Evans added that soccer, basketball, softball, and tennis are the riskiest sports for ACL injuries.
Ottley's high school soccer career is over, but she's confident she'll be able to play intramural and recreation soccer for fun in college, and hopefully be even stronger than before. It's a message of hope she shares with other injured athletes. She shared this advice for medically sidelined players, "The best thing is they just have support from their teammates and their family and they know it's not the end of their career."