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High number of knee injuries in girls on the rise with prevention key

Release Date: 
Friday, October 02, 2015
Rosemont, IL, October 2, 2015 - A football player being tackled in a game is a common setting for a knee injury. But among young athletes, especially girls, there is also a high risk of knee injuries, especially to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Preventing ACL injuries and reversing a rise in the incidence of them are the focus of this year’s World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day (World PB&J Day), Oct. 19.
Girls and women are 3 to 8 times more likely than boys and men to injure their ACL. And unlike the setting in football, girls and women are more likely to injure their ACLs without contact. This can happen when stopping and changing direction in sports such as soccer, or landing a jump, as in basketball.
The ACL helps connect the thigh bone to the shin bone and keeps the knee stable. Research has found differences that may explain the higher risk of ACL injuries in women.  The most likely reason is in how females use their muscles and position their bodies when pivoting or landing, all of which place increased stress on the ACL.  Once the ACL is torn, the knee is more likely to “give way,” making high level sports difficult. Kids may need to avoid sports at this level after injury.
The increase in these injuries over the past several years is in part due to more children and teenagers playing sports at high levels. While a torn ACL can be fixed with surgery, people with an ACL injury usually also have other injuries to their knees.  Injury that draws most concern involves tissue lining the bones that make up the joint (“articular cartilage”).  Once damaged, it cannot be repaired, leading to an increased risk of arthritis of the knee.
Arthritis after an ACL injury occurs at a much younger age than in people without ACL injuries.  This risk is much higher and occurs at a much younger age among females than among males with the same injury.
Because of the impact of ACL injuries in the short and long term, prevention is key.  Yet because ACL injuries seem to be different between males and females, preventive measures will also be different.  For females, these focus on different strengthening exercises, stretching, and how to pivot and land from jumps in ways to protect the ACL. 
The Pediatric Specialty Group of the United States Bone and Joint Initiative is calling on parents to learn about ACL injury prevention, and for healthcare professionals to raise the issue with patients. THE ISSUE, reiterated here, is the focus of World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day (World PB&J Day) on Oct. 19, 2015.
For more information, contact your local athletic trainer, physical therapist, or orthopaedic surgeon.
Content contact: Jill Flanagan, MD, 678-686-6816,
USBJI Contact: United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), 217-375-3917,