ACL Injuries – are Tearing Our Kids Apart  

What exactly is an ACL injury and why are we seeing more of these injuries in our young children?

Anyone who has suffered an ACL injury knows exactly what it is and how painful a tear in this ligament can be. Additionally, healing requires a lengthy treatment process, even if you are lucky enough to avoid surgery.

To keep it simple an anterior cruciate ligament helps holds your knee together, in other words it stabilises the knee. When you twist or turn quickly you can tear this ligament and the consequences are long rehabilitation and the risk of future injuries depending on the extent of the tear.

Recently there has been considerable discussion amongst physiotherapists regarding the rise of anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries in the young. Last November an ABC news article reported that ‘the number of children undergoing ACL reconstructions had tripled in the past 15 years, and this does not take into account children who injure their ACL’s but do not have surgery.’

The possible reasons include the rise of children playing more organised sport combined with the increase in the professionalism of kid’s sport. 

At this practice Todd and Janet are treating more and more children with ACL injuries. They are noticing that many of these kids are training more than once a week and some are playing competition sport on Saturdays and Sunday as well.

Not only has the type of training changed, since we were young, but the amount of time on the sports field has doubled.

Also the type of surfaces may be a factor, with astro turf been a potential cause as it is a considerable harder surface than the traditional grass oval. Although our kids are participating in more competition sport, unfortunately when they are not playing, they tend to be engaging in stationary activities such as technology based games etc. This lack of mobility when off the field could also be a probable cause. Once Janet and Todd  would have treated patients, primarily young men in their mid 20’s, with ACL injuries now some of their patients are as young as 10, and it is not gender specific.

So what do they recommend to prevent and treat ACL injuries?  

Obviously it is not realistic for young children to stop playing sport, however parents should consider a more realistic timetable if their children are spending an inordinate time at the local, or not so local, sports grounds.

Getting your kids outside is also a good policy to adopt, they don’t have to be training but just running around and kicking a ball rather than playing virtual football on their screens.

I know we are all rushing from field to field usually with more than one child in tow, however besides ensuring your child does not turn up to their soccer game in a netball uniform, warm ups are crucial to prevention. If possible arrive early and get them to do some change of direction and agility warm up drills.

Many of the coaches are volunteer parents, particularly in the very young children’s sports teams, they are providing an invaluable service but may not know the importance of warming up and the best exercises to prevent these injuries. A chat to the coach could be useful and in fact coaches should insist on getting their team to the game early for a quick warm up session, and you should never allow your child to run from the car straight onto the field.

For the best warm up exercise for your children click on the link below-

Treatment plan- is surgery for young children a feasible option?

If your child does injure their knee and is in considerable pain please make an appointment as soon as possible with your local physiotherapist or doctor. All physiotherapists at this practice are experienced in diagnosis and the best treatment methods. Depending on how badly the ACL is torn will determine the treatment plan, and if a minor tear we will aim to get your child back on the sports field pronto with specific strengthening exercises.

If your child’s ACL injury is not healing, an MRI will help determine if reconstructive surgery is necessary or the best option. In the past surgeons were cautious and would wait until children had stopped growing. This is not an ideal option these days when sport is such an important part of our children’s lives. Surgery, whilst it should be a last resort, often means kids can get back to playing faster and some specialist argue it can also help to stop future injuries.

If you wish to read more click on the links below

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