LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With spring upon us and summer not too far behind, April has been proclaimed Youth Sports Month – a time to encourage youngsters to get out and play while also providing important guidance on how to avoid injury and stay in the game.
One injury of particular concern is the number of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears found among today’s youths. The ACL is one of the major ligaments that provides stability to the knee joint; and although commonly talked about in professional sports, this injury is even more often found in athletes under the age of 25. In fact, the number of ACL injuries, particularly among high school students, has risen dramatically over the past 20 years. Researchers have found the overall incidence of ACL tears among 6- to 18-year-old patients has increased by 2.3 percent per year, and the rate of ACL tears surgically reconstructed has increased by 3 percent per year over the study period.
“ACL injuries have become a youth sports epidemic and are the No. 1 sports injury we operate on at our outpatient surgical center,” said Jennifer Beck, M.D., associate director of the Center for Sports Medicine at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children. “The injury is most common in sports that involve sudden changes of direction – such as football and soccer – but fortunately there are some basic things athletes can do to lessen the chance of injury.”
According to Dr. Beck, most ACL injuries are not the result of contact with another player but rather occur during sudden twisting motions (such as when the feet are planted one way and the knees are turned another way) or when landing from a jump. Factors that can contribute to ACL injuries include biomechanical factors such as muscle strength and leg alignment as well as sport technique and preparation.
Dr. Beck says that athletes can reduce their risk of ACL injuries by performing training drills that require balance, jumping, power and agility. “Drills such as these also help improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions and have shown to ultimately decrease the risk of ACL injury.” Other suggested exercise includes a variety of focused stretches (calf, hamstring, quadriceps, etc.) leg raises, leg lifts, prone hip extensions and sidesteps with a Theraband resistance band. A complete list and more information on ACL sprains and tears can be found at http://ortho-institute.org/education/patient-library/anterior-cruciate-ligament-sprain.
While ACL injuries are on the rise, it is not the only potential hazard for youth who are gearing up for another season of sports … and many of the basic tips provided to all young athletes apply to ACL injury prevention as well. The OIC Center for Sports Medicine advises parents and coaches to work together with young athletes to ensure that players:
- Don’t skip the warm-ups. It is important to warm up properly, including stretching and jogging. Preparing the muscles for more strenuous exercise can help prevent strains and sprains (including ACL injury) while improving performance.
- Drink enough fluids. Dehydration can make muscles more susceptible to damage. Players should drink water before, during, and after practice and games.
- Use proper equipment. There have been many advances through the years in sports equipment that not only help performance but lessen the risk of injury. Make sure that athletes have the right shoes, pads and helmets before they take to the field.
- Never play through pain. It is never okay for young athletes to play through pain or fatigue. Persistent pain should not be ignored. Left untreated simple injuries can become complicated conditions.
“We want children to have fun, but it is also important to have a common sense approach to playing and to not ignore injury,” says Dr. Beck. “While rest, ice and ibuprofen can help reduce basic soreness, if pain persists parents should contact a physician. Failure to address a sports injury properly and promptly can lead to lifelong problems.”
The Orthopaedic Institute for Children is home to Los Angeles’ premier Center for Sports Medicine for children. Its state-of-the-art facility is staffed by a specially trained team of sports medicine physicians, pediatric orthopaedic surgeons, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, athletic trainers and physical therapists all focused on helping each child return to his or her sport activities as quickly and safely as possible with the shortest possible recovery time.
About Orthopaedic Institute for Children
Orthopaedic Institute for Children (OIC) was founded in 1911 as Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital. Focused solely on musculoskeletal conditions in children, OIC receives 60,000 patient visits each year. In alliance with UCLA Health and with the support of the OIC Foundation, we advance pediatric orthopaedics worldwide through outstanding patient care, medical education and research. Our locations in downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Westwood and Calexico treat the full spectrum of pediatric orthopaedic disorders and injuries. For more information, visit us at ortho-institute.org.