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Preventing ACL Tears In Young Student Athletes

Nothing worse than injuring yourself our having a child injure themselves while playing sports. You know, if I hadn’t injured myself 6 years ago, I might not be so convinced of the importance of injury prevention. I now believe whether you’re a student or an adult athlete, or someone who’s simply on the road to fitness, injury prevention should be one of your main goals. It’s definitely a by-product of a effective program for a healthy lifestyle.

“Go to a boys’ basketball game and listen. You’ll hear the floor squeaking. You won’t hear that sound at a girls’ game. That’s because boys will be playing and landing with bent knees,” says Dr. Patrick Hurlbut, Lincoln Orthopedic Surgeon.

That difference, Dr. Hurlbut believes, is the most practical reason girls are four to six times more likely than boys to suffer ACL tears. Doctors have proposed a number of other explanations such as hormonal influence, a wider pelvis which might influence the stability of the knee, and a slower neuromuscular reaction time. Dr. Hurlbut thinks it’s the way girls play sports. “It’s natural for boys to play sports with bent knees,” he says, “but girls are more likely to come to a stop with straight leg and not as likely to land with soft knees when they jump.”

As long ago as 1999, Dr. Hurlbut read an article in a medical journal advocating plyometric training for young female athletes to prevent ACL trauma. The article stoked his interest in injury prevention, an interest that remained. Dr. Hurlbut was personally interested in finding someone who shared his passion and interest in a type of training designed to lessen the epidemic having two younger daughters involved in sports.

Hurlbut says, “Sports acceleration programs for student atheletes have become increasingly popular, but I’ve seen a lot of damage from these programs that just push kids until they puke. I treated one girl who suffered chronic knee pain from just three months of training. There is no evidence that strength training prevents ACL injuries, but with training that emphasizes bent knees including plyometrics, injuries can be reduced by as much as 69%.”

soccergirl

Check out this additional short article by Maggie Fox.

Girl Athletes Need Training to Protect Knees, Doctors Advise
By Maggie Fox

More kids are tearing up their knees playing sports, pediatricians said Monday, and they have some advice for parents: consider extra training for your young athletes.

There’s been a rise in diagnoses of a specific injury to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, a team of experts writes in the journal Pediatrics.

The increase is particularly dramatic in girls who play high school soccer, basketball, volleyball and in gymnasts, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. Girls suffer two to six times more ACL injuries than boys in similar sports, and are more likely to have surgery than boys, the group says.
Image: Girls are at special risk of ACL injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. Bongarts / Getty Images file
Girls are at special risk of ACL injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

But special training can help strengthen the muscles and help the student athlete develop habits that can prevent injury, the pediatricians found.

“Neuromuscular training programs strengthen lower extremity muscles, improve core stability, and teach athletes how to avoid unsafe knee positions,” said Dr. Cynthia LaBella of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who led the team that wrote the report.

Girls are at higher risk of ACL injury because as they grow after puberty, they don’t gain much more muscle power, said Timothy Hewett, an expert in ACL injuries at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a member of the team that wrote the report.

“After puberty, girls have a ‘machine motor mismatch,’” Hewett said. “In contrast, boys get even more powerful relative to their body size after their growth spurt. “

An ACL injury is no joke.

“An ACL injury at an early age is a life-changing event. In addition to surgery and many months of rehabilitation, the treatment costs can be substantial ($17,000–$25,000 per injury), and the time lost from school and sports participation can have considerable effects on the athlete’s mental health and academic performance,” LaBella’s team wrote.

And a 13-year-old girl with an ACL tear may suffer chronic pain into her 20s or even 30s, LaBella said.

But the injuries can be prevented with specialized training. “Plyometric training combined with technique training and feedback to athletes regarding proper form were the common components of programs that effectively reduced ACL injury rates,” they wrote.

The AAP points parents and coaches to its Council on Sports Medicine for tips.

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