ACL injuries on the rise for children athletes


KNOXVILLE (WATE) — More youth are playing soccer in the past 25 years, but so has the risk of getting hurt while playing soccer.

A new study of children’s soccer injuries released Monday in the journal Pediatrics found increased of concussions, broken bones, lacerations, torn tendons and ankle sprains since 1990. Doctors are also reporting increased number of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

The ACL is one of four ligaments that help keep the knee stable, according to Dr. Ryan Redman, an emergency room doctor at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. He says the ACL is located deep in the joint behind the kneecap.

“It can be torn when a child jumps and lands hard on his or her feet, or during a quick turn,” said Dr. Redman. “If the quad muscles aren’t strong enough, a movement an athlete is used to doing can suddenly put too much pressure on the knee joint, causing the rope-like band of tissue to tear or break apart.”

Redman said kids who get ACL injuries tend to play contact sports like football and basketball, and “cutting” sports like soccer and baseball that feature swift, abrupt movements like pivoting, stopping or turning on a dime. he said teen girls are more likely than boys to tear an ACL because they have different risk factors like body shape, limb alignment, neuro-muscular control and hormones that might loosen the ligament.

“ACL injuries can be very painful, especially during cutting and pivoting movements,” said Redman. “When injury happens many kids report hearing a ‘pop’ sound and others report the knee feels ‘less tight’ than it did before. A child with an injured knee should stop activity and seek immediate medical care.”

While surgery is the most common treatment for an ACL injury, Redman says ACL surgery is tougher on kids because they are still growing and surgeons will need to make sure not to touch the growth plates. After surgery, a child will need to walk with crutches, limit physical activity and wear a leg brace for up to six weeks. Redman said rehab can take 6 months to a year with specific exercises to help restore range of motion, reduce pain and swelling and improve balance.

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