Guidelines for Reducing the Risk of Knee Injuries in Young Athletes

Chances are most people know someone who has torn an ACL. Athletes participate in more games and practices compared to 20 years ago AND they are specializing in a single sport.  Both factors have influenced the rate of ACL injuries.  Youth sports is a booming business and shows no real signs of slowing down. But did you know that some really smart people have done their homework and came up with a few guidelines for decreasing the risk?

First, the bad news:

  • 200,000+ ACL tears occur every year
  • 90 percent of those go on to have surgery
  • 15-32 percent of those active individuals go on to have a second ACL tear within 2 years of returning to sports
  • 50 percent of those athletes don’t return to the same competitive level

Now, for the good news for coaches, parents and athletes: there are steps you can take to help reduce the chance of it happening to you. The Academy of Orthopedic Physical Therapy and the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy developed the guidelines below to create an evidence-based approach to injury prevention:

  1. Athletes: participate in an exercise-based ACL injury prevention program such as Sportmetrics™ or PEP (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance).
  2. Coaches: use an evidence-based warm-up program before practice and games that can reduce knee injuries
    • FIFA and FIFA 11+, HarmonKnee or WIPP are recommended.
    • User-friendly programs: Coaches can easily implement the evidence-based warm-up at every practice.
    • Elements in these programs include:
      • Dynamic Warm-up/stretching:
      • Plyometric/Jump Drills
      • Strength Drills
      • Flexibility Exercises
      • Running and Agility Drills
  3. Athletes should complete the program several times per week and the exercises should last at least 20 minutes.
  4. Athletes ages 12-25 should perform the programs before and during the season.

OrthoNebraska is a Sportmetrics™ certified site and offers this 6-week program throughout the year to local athletes who want to stay healthy during the season. The program is three one-hour sessions per week. Video analysis is included to screen for individual mechanics that influence risk.

If you have questions, please contact one of our ACL team therapists at OrthoNebraska.

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