Your Healthy Family

May 1, 2012 9:13 AM by Jennifer Horbelt

Your Healthy Family: Teen ACL injuries on the rise

It's being called an epidemic. In the last decade, the number ACL injuries in teens has sky rocketed, with doctors reporting a 400% increase.

An injury to the ACL many times requires surgery and long periods of physical therapy to get back to the sports your teens love. So, why the big increase in injuries and what can be done to prevent it?

Sierra Butcher loves playing, and coaching, soccer.

"It's just such a fast paced sport," Sierra said.

Sometimes, it's a dangerous sport, that can leave scars like the ones on Sierra's right knee.

"I tried to change directions with the ball, but my cleats got stuck in the grass, so my body moved but my knee didn't," Sierra said. "I just remember a quick pop, and then all of a sudden I was on the ground and I was screaming."

"I had never heard Sierra cry out, for any injuries or knicks before that," Coach Chris Cosgrove said of when Sierra was injured.

Three years after she tore her ACL, Coach Cosgrove says high school junior Sierra is back at it, but it wasn't an easy recovery.

"I had to have my surgery, and then after your surgery you're on crutches for awhile, and then almost immediately after you're doing physical therapy," Sierra explained.

She couldn't play for nearly eleven months.

"What we're seeing really is an epidemic of these kind of injuries," Dr. Alex Romero, a sport medicine specialist with St. Mary Corwin Physician Partners, said of ACL injuries in teens.

"They're 2-3 times more likely to have this injury," Dr. Romero explained of the risk in teen girls.

Part of the reason, says Dr. Romero, may be the way girls jump and land.

"Girls, when they land, their hips tend to be weak, the knees tend to rotate in," Dr. Romero said.

That puts stress on the ACL, leading to injuries like Sierra's.

"We changed our whole program of warming up and stretching, specifically after Sierra got hurt," Coach Cosgrove said.

Sierra even brought the stretches she learned in physical therapy back to her team. She uses them now on the 13 and 14 year olds she helps coach.

"I don't want anybody else to have that happen to them, because I know it was awful for me," Sierra said.

For more information on prevention and warning signs, click here or here.

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