Saturday October 5 2013
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Leg Strength Key to Avoiding Knee injuries in Children

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The number of adolescents participating in organized sports has increased over the last few decades. Today, 40 percent of all pediatric injuries are sports-related and estimates put this number at 4.4 million injuries per year.

One of the most common sports injuries children experience is to the knee. The knee is the largest joint in the human body and it is the most utilized joint in sports. It is made up of the femur bone that joins a flat bone called the tibia, and various ligaments hold these bones together. Knee injuries can be difficult to recover from, and it is critical to future performance that the knee is properly diagnosed and given time to heal.

There are a number of knee injuries youth can experience, from a simple fracture—a breaking of the growth plates—or patellar (kneecap) instability to anterior knee pain (also patella femoral syndrome) which is the result of overuse, muscle imbalance and poor flexibility and alignment.

In most cases, the physician can make the diagnosis of any knee injury by taking the patient's medical history and performing a physical exam. The adolescent's age, sex, and level of participation in sports are important. A description of how the injury occurred is valuable. The physician will want to know if there was a “pop,” swelling, history of previous injury, family history of similar injury, locking or giving way of the knee, or other signs or symptoms.

While special tests can be helpful, in certain circumstances an accurate diagnosis can be made 90 percent of the time by taking a good history and performing a systematic exam of the knee.

ACL tears
As adolescents near the end of bone growth, their injuries become more adult-like and they become more susceptible to meniscal and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. The ACL is often injured during athletic contests and is considered one of the most common sports injuries. The ACL runs from the front of the tibia to the back of the femur, preventing extreme rotation of the knee joint. An athlete quickly changing directions while in motion or hyperextending the knee can tear the ACL.

A majority of all ACL injuries arise from the cutting and planting maneuvers used in all sports. Cutting involves taking a hard, quick step to decelerate in another direction. Planting involves landing hard on your feet from a jump or a step.

Studies show that training programs supervised by sports health professionals will improve athletes’ leg and trunk strength and jump-landing techniques. Proper training has been shown to decrease ACL injury rates in basketball, volleyball and soccer.

As your child takes part in sports, remember that building leg and trunk strength and using proper technique are the two best ways to avoid all knee injuries and stay in the game.