More children with serious knee injuries: What’s going on?

Kyneton Football Club

A new study referencing Medicare data has confirmed the number of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries among young people, particularly high school students, has risen significantly during the past 20 years: a trend identified by Cobaw Community Health’s Children’s Services team.

“The ACL is one of the four major ligaments that stabilise the knee joint and it helps protect the knee when landing from a jump, pivoting, or slowing down from a run. As pre-teens enter into puberty and grow taller and heavier, their risk of ACL injury increases. Girls are at higher risk of ACL injury because after puberty, as their body size increases, girls usually do not develop more muscle power,” explained Wendy Taverna, Cobaw Children’s Services Physiotherapist.

The effects of an ACL tear can be long-lasting. Injured children who become distanced from their sport and its social network can experience depression, and time away from school for treatments can impact academic performance. Children with an ACL injury are up to 10 times more likely to develop early-onset degenerative knee osteoarthritis, which limits their ability to participate in sports and often leads to chronic pain and disability.

Whilst some of these injuries are accidental and not occurring while playing sport, there are more children and teens participating in organised sports now than ever before.

“We want children to continue to participate in sport as part of a healthy lifestyle, however we are seeing children starting sports activities younger and experiencing more intense training,” said Beck Neylon, Cobaw Children’s Services Physiotherapist.

“The good news is that we’ve shown that with targeted exercises we can increase children’s neuromuscular control and reduce their risk of ACL injuries. We are seeing children as young as 10 with ACL injuries. Children need to be taught how to warm up and stretch correctly, strengthen key muscles and have their technique corrected if necessary to prevent these sorts of injuries”.

Wendy Taverna, Physiotherapist added, “We can design training programs to strengthen children’s lower extremity muscles, improve core stability, and teach children how to avoid unsafe knee positions. These include a good warm up – not just jumping out of a car and running onto the field, but one that involves a lot of change of direction, jumping and agility activities”.

For further information on Cobaw’s Children’s Services call 03 5421 1666.