Tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is something professional athletes fear, but doctors in East Texas and across the United States say they are seeing more of the knee-related injuries in elementary-aged children.
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
Tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is something professional athletes fear, but doctors in East Texas and across the United States say they are seeing more of the knee-related injuries in elementary-aged children. Fortunately, according to a new study this type of injury is preventable.
“I think parents expect the turned ankles and that sort of thing,” Dr. Stacey Rudd, a gymnastics coach, said.
However, parents never expect injuries like a torn ACL and Rudd said at his gym, they shouldn’t.
“We kind of build that injury prevention in with a long warm up, 25 minutes out of a 3 hour work out,” he said.
That’s all it takes, according to the study, and especially for girls who are six times more likely to tear their ACL than boys.
“It’s a lot of stretching, just pick a joint, from ankles all the way up, we stretch each one statically, just systematically from bottom to top,” he explained.
Those simple warm-ups, according to that study, can prevent ACL tears by 74 percent.
Dr. Jayesh Patel, a sports medicine specialist, said he has seen four middle school children with torn ACL’s in the last two months.
“General injury prevention is a good warm up and even after you get done working out, stretch,” Patel said. “Those things all help you in the long run to prevent injuries.”
In those off months playing a different sport to exercise new muscles can help, too, but stretching is important even in the off season.
“Our bodies, they’re growing. They need to rest, they need to recover, and you also, in those months off, you can rehab,” Patel said.
Even in sports that don’t require flexibility, Rudd said, flexibility is what keeps his gymnasts out of Patel’s office.
“But, it’s kind of a shame because [other athletes] need it as much as a gymnast in order to prevent injury,” Rudd said.
Jumping, flexing, and stretches that move the legs can strengthen the knees, not just for grown-ups, but for children, too.
“It’s a shock to them because at that age you think they’re invincible. They do too, but it just takes one cut the wrong way, twisting the wrong way, and your knee can just blow,” Patel said.
He added that a torn ACL could keep a child out of sports for six to nine months. Even then, they could face arthritis and other issues later in life, so prevention is especially important.