The Dangers of ACL Tears to Young Female Athletes

There are an increasing number of girls playing sports, such as soccer and basketball, but with this growing statistic comes an increase in the number of girls and young women sustaining sports related injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee tears. Studies conclude that in sports such as soccer, basketball and gymnastics, female athletes experience ACL tears at a rate of five times that of male athletes.

This orthopedic injury is very debilitating and can disrupt one’s every day life in the short-term and has serious long term consequences as well. The ACL is a small, rubber-band-like fiber, that attaches to the femur in the upper leg and the tibia in the lower leg and stabilizes the knee.

After the ACL tears from the femur, it turns into a viscous liquid. The ligament cannot be repaired; the ligament has to be replaced with a graft, which is normally created by the surgeon by using part of the patellar tendon below the kneecap. Normally two surgical procedures are involved.

Doctors used to think that tears of the ACL almost never occurred in children. With children, the standard and effective surgery for such an injury in adults poses a greater risk for children and adolescents who have not finished growing because it involves drilling into a growth plate, an area of still-developing tissue at the end of the leg bone. Doctors often suggest delaying surgery until the child finishes growing and instead putting a brace on the injured knee and limiting a child’s activities.

Those surgeons who do operate are developing new and technically demanding methods to repair ACL tears in children, drilling holes to create little tunnels in bone that is already finished growing and threading tendons around the growth plate. But the tendons are not anchored where they would normally be and the long-term effects of the operation are not known.

There is a lot of enigma surrounding the ACL and how injuries to the same occur. The most common cause of ACL injuries is twisting and jumping, such as a child running and stepping in a hole, falling off a bicycle, or by coming down from a rebound in basketball or by accelerating and decelerating. Often injury results without any warning and there is uncertainty as to what specifically caused the tears.

There is a need to better understand this injury to prevent the situation from getting worse as more girls begin to play sports and there is greater intensity level to the games. ACL injury prevention programs have been instituted to try to ameliorate this situation. It is focused on biomechanics, which is the way that athletes move. The results demonstrated that those students who performed PEP exercises, which included a warm up of stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises prior to their soccer games had a 74 percent reduction in ACL tears, compared to those players that only did basic warm-up exercises.

These studies will hopefully prevent future injuries but many are skeptical of the results. The injuries to female athletes is part of a national trend resulting from Title IX and the vast increase in sports participation among girls and young women.

ACL tears are not the only type of injury that girls seem more prone to than boys. A study last year by researchers at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reported that high-school girls who play basketball suffer concussions at three times the rate of boys, and that the rate for high-school girls who play soccer is about 1.5 times the rate for boys.

In 50 years of practice, Levine & Slavit has represented and obtained results in personal injury lawsuits for many people who have injured their knees, including those who have torn their ACLs. Injuries have been sustained in accidents including in motor vehicle accidents, at construction sites, and in slips, trips and falls. Our personal injury lawyers have represented satisfied clients in suits brought in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County and other upstate counties. To learn more, watch our videos.

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