ACL Injuries and Children : What Parents Need to Know
Most professional athletes know the risk of an ACL tear and how fast and unexpected mishaps can end their careers. Of course, professional athletes are not the only ones who find themselves sidelined. Many children and teenagers also experience this potentially devastating injury. Here is what the parents of student athletes need to know.
Concussions Increase Risk
A potential for severe consequences exists with any concussion. Because of this, coaches and school administrators have adopted strict policies for concussion procedures. What many may not realize is that a concussion also increases the risk of ACL tears.
Studies show that ACL injuries occur at a higher rate to athletes with a recent concussion than to their teammates. Many experts believe that the concussion could slow motor function and impair the balance of the athlete. Parents with concussed teens need to be aware of the risk of other injuries after their children return to their sport.
Females Often Have Injuries
Teenage girls experience ACL injuries at rates that are often as much as eight times higher than male teenage athletes. ACL tears in teenage girls take place most often on the soccer field and the basketball court and account for 94 percent of the injuries that result in surgery. Medical experts point to a variety of reasons for this statistic.
Women tend to land more flat-footed than males, and the skeletal structure of females puts more pressure on the inside of the knee. Another possibility is that the knee-stabilizing muscles respond milliseconds slower in women than they do in men. In addition, female athletes may be less conditioned and have decreases in lower limb muscle strength compared to male athletes.
Parents of female athletes need to stress the importance of muscle strength. All athletes have a lower risk of injury to their knees when they build up their core muscles and their hamstrings. A healthy diet to prevent game-time fatigue and a habit of stretching before all activity may reduce the risk of injury.
Injuries Are Unique
An ACL injury may heal on its own or it may require surgery and physical therapy. No child should return to the field or court until their knee fully heals because they risk more damage. The risk for a repeat ACL tear of either knee is as high as 25% or one in four young athletes may have a serious repeat injury requiring a second knee surgery!
To make the injury worse does not only mean that the teen could be out for the season. If the injury becomes so severe as to need surgery, this could put them at the risk for arthritis. A study by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine shows that teens who undergo surgery for an ACL tear are likely to develop arthritis in the repaired knee by the time they reach 30.
Treatment Is Important
Elevate the leg and apply ice for 20-minute intervals after a knee injury. Get medical help for swelling or pain that lasts longer than a few days. Never allow children to apply pressure to a swollen knee. Visit an orthopedic surgeon for advice and for the care of any knee injury right away and particularly if swelling occurred in the first 24 hours which means there has been bleeding into the joint from an ACL tear.
An orthopedist may want to wait to allow the injury to heal on its own, particularly for young children. The doctor may suggest surgery if a full ACL rupture has occurred. After-surgical rest and rehabilitation can take weeks or months, and it is now recommended that young athletes not return to their sport until at least nine to twelve months after surgery.
Parental Actions Matter
Parents have a significant role in preventing knee injuries for their children. They can insist on implementing injury prevention programs that help to improve the safety of sports. Also, refusing to allow children to compete until a medical exam clears them for the activity can also help.
Professional assessment and care are some of the best ways to ensure a full recovery after an ACL injury. At The Noyes Knee Institute, we offer specialized care for each patient. A clear diagnosis and recovery plan will help your teen to be pain-free and back to doing what they love as soon as possible. Contact us to schedule an examination today. We developed Sportsmetrics which is the leading neuromuscular and training program in the world for young athletes to decrease the risk of a serious knee injury.