Guidelines for Reducing the Risk of Knee Injuries in Young Athletes

It’s likely that many individuals know someone who has experienced an ACL tear, a common injury seen particularly among athletes. With the increase in the number of games and practices, as well as a trend towards specialization in a single sport, the incidence of ACL injuries has been influenced by these factors. Youth sports continues to expand rapidly, showing no indications of slowing down. However, amidst this trend, there’s encouraging news: research has been conducted to create valuable guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of ACL injuries.

Now, let’s delve into the statistics:

  • Over 200,000 ACL tears are reported annually.
  • Surgery is pursued by approximately 90% of those affected.
  • 15-32% of active individuals who undergo surgery experience a second ACL tear within two years of resuming sports activities.
  • Furthermore, half of these athletes fail to return to their previous competitive level.

Fortunately, for coaches, parents, and athletes alike, proactive steps can be adopted to minimize the likelihood of ACL injuries. The Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy and the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy have collaborated to establish evidence-based guidelines for injury prevention:

For Athletes: Engage in an exercise-based ACL injury prevention program, such as Sportmetrics™ or PEP (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance).

For Coaches: Incorporate an evidence-based warm-up program before practices and games, known to reduce knee injuries. Recommended programs include FIFA and FIFA 11+, HarmonKnee, or WIPP.

Key elements of these programs include:

  • Dynamic Warm-up and Stretching
  • Plyometric and Jump Drills
  • Strength Exercises
  • Flexibility Training
  • Running and Agility Drills

Athletes should aim to complete these exercises several times weekly, with sessions lasting at least 20 minutes. Particularly for individuals aged 12-25, performing these programs before and during the season is crucial.

OrthoNebraska, recognized as a Sportmetrics™ certified site, offers a comprehensive 6-week program designed to help local athletes in maintaining their health during the season. Consisting of three one-hour sessions per week, this program incorporates video analysis to assess individual mechanics and identify potential risk factors.

For further inquiries, individuals are encouraged to reach out to one of our ACL team therapists at OrthoNebraska.

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