ACL tears are on the rise in girls

Recent study shows ACL tears in young athletes, particularly girls, are becoming more common

Last week the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article reporting that ACL tears are on the rise in children and teens, specifically in young female athletes.

The study states that anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in the knee peak in high school around age 16 or 17, and happen more frequently in females.

Joseph W. Greene, M.D., orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine, Norton Sports Health, treats young male and female athletes with ACL tears. He said the reason for the increased incidence is likely multifaceted.

“One big issue across both male and female sports is the year-round early specialization of young athletes, which does not allow for proper rest of muscles or for the athletes to develop other muscle groups outside of those used for their primary sport,” Dr. Greene said.

Dr. Greene also cited a lack of prevention programs, particularly for female athletes. A prevention program typically consists of a dynamic warmup, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics and sport-specific agility training to strengthen and coordinate the stabilizing muscles around the knee joint.

Other factors also contribute to ACL tears in girls. These include girls’ increased hip angle, hormonal changes and anatomical differences inside the joint.

Another factor is the rapidly increasing female participation in sports, statistically putting girls more at risk for injury.

The most important thing any athlete can do to prevent an ACL injury is to be diligent about strengthening the quadriceps and hamstrings, as well as mastering correct landing techniques.

Dr. Greene reminds athletes and parents that the benefits of participation in sports far outweigh the risks.

“Don’t let research like this deter you from taking part in sports,” he said. “Use it as a tool to stay committed to a good injury prevention program.”


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