Alarming rise in young athletes' knee injuries



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Posted on November 15, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 15 at 10:15 AM

High school senior Maggie Stinson plays soccer year round.  But during this past fall season her knee brace was part of her gear.

"The brace is only there to make sure I don't hyper-extend my knee," Stinson said.

When asked if her injury was career ending she replied "I would never give it up. I could never see myself not being active."

That was put to the test last January. During a game Maggie, collided with another player.

"I went in for a tackle. This girl kind of fell on top of me. And I didn't think of anything. It really didn't hurt that bad,"
she said.

But minutes later it was clear she'd been injured.

"I just kind of turned. And instantly there was a pop. And I just fell to the ground and I instantly knew," she said.

"This is the ACL right in here," said Seattle Children's Pediatric Sports Medicine Dr. Cordelia Carter, showing off a model of a human knee.

Dr. Carter repairs anterior cruciate ligaments at Seattle Children's. It's the surgery Maggie had. Dr. Carter isn't surprised by a new study that showed a 400% rise in knee injuries in children over the last decade. The researchers, from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who presented their study at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, didn't pin down the  cause. But Dr. Carter pointed to a change in fitness.

"We see this decrease in physical activity, and we see this increase in sports participation. And I think that it's really this mismatch that has led to injuries," she explained.

For years Cindi Stinson has watched her daughter's coaches put the players through injury prevention exercises. Still she's seen injuries stack up.

"There's been probably six or seven, maybe even eight girls on her team and her sister's team that have had knee injuries. And out of those, four have been ACL tears," Cindi Stinson said.

Boys experience knee injuries too. But studies show the rate in girls is much higher. Why are girls more prone than boys?

"Our hamstring to quadriceps muscle ratio tends to be a little bit different. Things like flexibility and overall strength and core strength can all contribute to being at risk for an ACL injury," said Dr. Carter.

It took Maggie seven months, and intensive physical therapy, to finally get back to the game she loves. And she's far from finished.

"Soccer's probably gonna be part of my life forever," Stinson said.

There is no guarantee against knee injuries. But experts say prevention exercises go a long way in protecting young athletes. Dr. Carter suggested parents and young athletes can find out more on prevention at theFIFA website. That's the Federation Internationale de Football Association. Check out their 11+ exercise program.