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ACL Injuries Are Rising and Teens Should Take Special Care, Say Experts

May 03, 2015 06:18 PM EDT
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Spring is here, and high school sports are back in full swing. That means that many young teens will be taking on activity that risks tearing their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) - an injury that could drastically impact a sporting career. Now experts with the AAP have are suggesting a number of new ways that both young athletes and their trainers can better protect their knees.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the ACL is a fundamental part of a person's leg, providing stability to the knee. Torn or over-stretched ligaments can result in a loose kneecap and even a collapsed leg, and compromises the stability of the entire limb.

Unfortunately, ACL tears are not uncommon, especially among teens who are in the midst of the 'awkward' stages of body growth, when they are unaccustomed and unfamiliar with their body's own strengths and weaknesses.

Back in 2010, for instance, Philadelphia doctors noticed a striking 400 percent increase in teen ACL injuries since 2002, according to NBC. Worse still, if serious enough, these injuries are devastating to a teen's athletic aspirations.

"Kids are playing too much," T.O. Souryal, one of the country's utmost authorities on ACL injuries, told NBC. "It's a year round, multi sports, there is never time to rest." (Scroll to read on...)

However, according to the AAP, there is still hope. In a report published in Pediatrics, AAP-associated experts outlined specific types of training that can reduce the risk of an ACL tear by as much as 72 percent for young and restless athletes.

This training, called "neurotransmuscular training programs" (NTPs) are designed to strengthen lower-extremity "stabilizer" muscles, maintaining limb stability and also helping athletes become more familiar with the limitations and positioning of their own bodies.

According to the report, that second benefit is hugely important to younger teens, as the risk of ACL injury among young girls rises around the age of 12, and rises for boys around the age of 14 - points in their lives when they will be going through growth spurts that keep young athletes unfamiliar with their own bodies.

The report details numerous NTPs that can be sport and gender specific, and the AAP urges coaches and trainers to make use of these guidelines, as to help cut the alarming number of ACL tears that is currently seen.

According to the AAP, past research has shown that people who suffer from an ACL tears are up to ten times more likely to develop early-onset degenerative knee conditions - conditions that could have been avoided had they simply trained in the proper way.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS.

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