CNN—April 28, 2014
CNN Editor's note: Jordan D. Metzl is an author and sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
ACL injury is a buzz word among athletes.
In young athletes, it's an unfortunate reality, as they are occurring at increasing rates over the past two decades. In part it's because more children are playing competitive sports and doing so at a younger ages. But they are also playing longer seasons and sometimes all year. Now
Teens who play sports have heard about the injury and know it isn't good. What they don't quite realize, however, are the future implications.
Famous athletes such as quarterback Tom Brady and alpine skier Lindsey Vonn have come back after ACL surgery, so how bad can it be? The truth is that surgery can restore knee function, but it does little to diminish the risk of arthritis 15 to 20 years down the line. Regardless of whether an athlete has surgery, the risk of arthritis skyrockets later in life from an ACL tear.
Kids who tear their ACL today are often left with 60-year-old knees when they're 30.
If parents and coaches realized the long-term implications of an ACL injury, I think they'd be more attuned to prevention. Multiple studies have demonstrated that strong muscles, particularly the landing muscles in the hips, glutes and hamstrings, can prevent ACL injuries from happening.
There are many resources to develop strength programs, including the PEP program and The ACL Solution. These and other programs are easy to implement at home or practice and twice per week is enough to make a difference. The new American Academy of Pediatrics report advocates this kind of training.
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