DURHAM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It’s a painful and devastating knee injury that can leave you sidelined for months. Now, researchers are looking at ways to help prevent ACL tears from happening.

Hattie Cutcliffe has loved gymnastics since she was a little girl.

Cutcliffe told Ivanhoe, “I was one of those kids who was rough and tumble- just bouncing around everywhere.”

That was until one day on the balance beam …

“I was doing a skill called an aerial cartwheel, which is essentially a cartwheel with no hands,” Cutcliffe explained.

She landed off balance and tore her anterior cruciate ligament or ACL.

“There are over 400,000 ACL tears in the U.S. each year,” Louis E. DeFrate, PhD, Frank H. Bassett III, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Duke University explained.

DeFrate and his research team at Duke University are studying the causes of ACL tears. In the hopes of preventing this type of injury, DeFrate and his team created a ‘stress test,’ combining MRIs of the knee with high tech X-ray imaging.

“We can see which positions the ACL is stretched the most and when it’s most likely to fail,” DeFrate said. Which can lead to better training programs for athletes and weekend warriors.

DeFrate continued, “Perhaps working certain muscle groups to prevent the injury from happening.”

Hattie now coaches young girls’ gymnastics and teaches them the proper way to land, keeping young athletes active and their knees safe from injury.

Duke researchers also studied surgical techniques for ACL replacement. They have already discovered ways to improve placement to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. For more information on this research please visit duke.edu.