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More Kids Suffering ACL Injuries

2:00

Kids involved in sports like soccer, basketball and football are increasing their odds of damaging their knees, according to a new study.

A common knee injury — an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear — has steadily increased among 6- to 18-year-olds in the United States, rising more than 2 percent a year over the last two decades, researchers report.

These injuries peak in high school, said lead researcher Dr. Nicholas Beck, an orthopedic surgery resident at the University of Minnesota. Girls have a higher rate of ACL injuries, Beck added.

Sports like soccer and basketball often require the child to pivot or cut back and forth, putting stress on their ACL and risking a tear.  Contact sports like football can further increase the risk. But ACL tears can occur in tennis and volleyball, too.

The study didn’t look at why the injuries are on the rise, but co-author, Dr. Marc Tompkins, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Minnesota, has a theory.

“One potential cause is the year-round sports specialization that is occurring in kids at an earlier age,” Tompkins said.

Instead of playing a variety of sports and using different muscle groups, many kids are focusing on just one sport creating muscle fatigue and an increase for injury, Tompkins explained.

“Another potential cause is that children as athletes play with more intensity and force than 20 years ago, which may put the body at increased risk of injury,” he added.

The numbers of girls experiencing ACL tears are rising because their sports participation numbers are up.

Beck hopes this study will increase awareness of ACL tears in young athletes and promote interest in prevention programs or developing athletic participation guidelines.

The anterior cruciate ligament sits in the center of the front of the knee. It’s one of the ligaments that holds the knee bones together. When it tears, the ligament splits into two, causing knee instability, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“ACL injuries are serious in the short term because they generally require six months’ to a year’s worth of hard recovery work before going back to sports. And even then it often takes longer to get back to pre-injury function,” Tompkins said.

“ACL injuries are serious in the long term, too, because we know that even if they recover well with or without surgery, the risk of developing arthritis in the injured knee is higher than before the injury,” he added.

Some sports medicine specialist say there are ways to reduce injuries among young athletes, by having coaches teach good running techniques that promote improved function and agility.

Children participating in sports can also benefit from flexibility and stretching programs.

The researchers found that girls of all ages experienced a significant increase in the incidence of ACL tears over 20 years. In boys, however, only those aged 15 to 16 showed such an increase.

The report was published online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/acl-tears-on-the-rise-among-kids-especially-girls/

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