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Training Programs Protect Young Athletes From ACL Tears

Knee ligament injuries are rising among kids in sports, especially girls, experts say

Training Programs Protect Young Athletes From ACL Tears

MONDAY, April 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Certain training methods can greatly reduce young athletes' risk of serious and potentially debilitating knee injuries, a new report says. Overall, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery is about 90 percent successful in restoring knee stability, according to the report published online April 28 in Pediatrics.

A growing number of American children and teens are tearing their ACL, according to background information in the report. The rise is particularly dramatic among girls in sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, and gymnastics. Specific types of training can reduce the risk of an ACL tear by as much as 72 percent, the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

The report also offered updated advice on treatment of ACL tears in young athletes. Previously, surgery was often delayed until a child's skeletal structure was fully mature. However, new less-invasive surgical techniques avoid impact to the developing growth plates in youngsters, which means they can have surgery to stabilize the knee. Despite the improvements in surgery, the emphasis should be on prevention because an ACL injury can have long-lasting effects. People who suffer an ACL tear are up to 10 times more likely to develop early-onset degenerative knee osteoarthritis, which can lead to chronic pain and disability, the report said.

"Neuromuscular training programs strengthen lower-extremity muscles, improve core stability, and teach athletes how to avoid unsafe knee positions," lead author Cynthia LaBella, M.D., medical director and associate professor of pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and a member of the academy's council on sports medicine and fitness, said in an academy news release. Coaches and those who run school sports programs should learn about the benefits of these exercises and encourage their athletes to use them, the academy recommends.

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