Facility Safety Management

Weekly E-Newsletter

August 28, 2007

Are Your Employees Prone to Accident?

By  Michael D. Shaw

One of the most dreaded sports injuries—and one that also happens frequently in industrial settings—is a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). As it happens, most torn ACLs occur in non-contact situations, because of an off-balance landing from a jump or running stride.

Now, in a pioneering study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, a team of researchers led by University of Delaware professor Charles Buz Swanik has found that differences in brain function may predispose some of us to these non-contact injuries.

As Swanik explained: “We had some data from previous research which suggested that these non-contact knee injuries occur when a person gets distracted or is caught off guard. This made me wonder if we could measure whether these individuals had different mental characteristics that made them injury-prone.”

The scientists first screened about 1500 athletes with neurocognitive testing of visual memory, verbal memory, processing speed, and reaction time. Then, they let some time go by, and checked back for non-contact ACL injuries.

The data showed that the athletes who ended up with these injuries demonstrated significantly slower reaction time and processing speed, and performed worse on visual and verbal memory tests, when compared to the control group.

Can these skills be improved? More testing is needed, but stress and anxiety are already known to cause changes in muscle tone and concentration, and Swanik intends to look into such factors.