*The following is excerpted from an online article from CBS News.
A new study presented at the 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference in Washington, DC, found that a growing number of school-age children and teens are receiving treatment for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Researchers report that over the past two decades, the overall incidence of ACL tears among patients ages 6 to 18 increased by 2.3 percent per year.
The ACL ligament, which helps connect and stabilize the knee, can be hurt by overextending the knee, a sudden twisting motion, or from a collision on the playing field. If torn, it will not heal properly on its own.
The researchers analyzed billing data from a large, metropolitan insurance company's 1994 to 2013 records. When they broke down their findings by gender, girls showed an increase of ACL injuries of 2.5 percent per year and experienced most ACL tears at age 16, although all female age groups showed an increased incidence of ACL tears over the past 20 years.
The researchers found that boys had an overall increase of 2.2 percent per year and experienced peak rates of ACL tears at age 17. Among males, only the 15- to 16-year-olds had a significant rise.
"The data we were able to get from this database is the first true incidence data to prove that what we've been seeing and observing in our practices for the past ten to 20 years is indeed going on. That is to say, the incidence of ACL tears is increasing," study author Dr. John Todd Lawrence, an attending orthopedic surgeon at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told CBS News.
Lawrence said the math is simple: ACL injuries are going up because kids and teens are playing more sports.
"It has been fairly well-established that the more you play and the higher level you play at, the higher your overall risk is. It's what I call the taxicab effect. There's a reason why taxicabs have a lot of dents and Ferraris don't. Taxis are on the streets 24 hours a day," said Lawrence.
"Their exposure is really high and they play physically at a much higher level compared to twenty years ago," Lawrence added.
He said injury prevention programs in the schools and sports clubs show promise. Such programs may help by emphasizing strength training and stretching exercises, teaching proper technique, and enforcing safety rules. "They're not perfect and there's some variability in how they work and there's some barriers to implementation. But that's a place where we could and should start," he said.
Source: CBS News