SATURDAY, Aug. 19, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are trying to identify the early signs of osteoarthritis in the knees of young people who've suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
Being able to spot the first signs of this degenerative arthritis, which causes the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, would allow early medical intervention to slow progression of the disease, say a team from the University of Michigan Health System.
Nearly 70 percent of ACL injuries in young athletes lead to early onset of knee osteoarthritis, the researchers noted.
"There's no doubt that the number of ACL injuries have increased, especially among children. What's concerning is that by the time those kids are in their late teens or early 20s, they'll be living with osteoarthritis as a result of that ACL injury," Dr. Edward Wojtys, medical director of MedSports Sports Medicine Program at UMHS, said in a prepared statement.
"If our study can identify the earliest changes in the knee joint among these young athletes, we have the hope to do something to try to prevent the ongoing progress," of knee osteoarthritis, Wojtys said.
He and his colleagues will use medical imaging (such as MRI) and biochemical techniques to search for changes in the knee joints of teenagers who've suffered ACL injuries.
The researchers also hope to learn whether the early stages of knee osteoarthritis can be prevented by altering the rehabilitation program of ACL patients, limiting certain activities after injury, or changing the length of time patients wait before they return to playing sports.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about ACL injury.