Concussions and ACL Injuries – A Duo That is On The Rise in Youth Sports

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By: Kenneth Huh, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine specialist, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach

Kids competing in sports is as common as fireworks in July, because for most kids being active is a way of life. Participation in sports offers social, emotional and physical benefits for children and the rate of participation has never been higher. In the U.S., approximately 30 million children participate in organized sports each year.

Just because playing sports is fun doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 2.6 million children 0 – 19-years-old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports-related injuries. Two of the most common and serious injuries in sports today are concussions and anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injuries. Concussion and ACL injury rates are on the rise and have made their presence felt in youth sports.

Traumatic brain injuries are responsible for nearly 630,000 emergency room visits and 6,100 deaths in children each year, according to research from the CDC. There are between 250,000 and 300,000 ACL injuries per year, and they’re almost exclusively happening to athletes. ACL injuries in adolescents has risen dramatically over the past decade and account for 30 percent of all knee injuries in young soccer players.

Despite the fact that these injuries are more common, the key is to be aware and learn how to prevent sports-related injuries.

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head that can change how the brain normally functions. Concussions can occur from a fall or a blow that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Effects of concussions can be serious, which is why kids and parents need to know how to prevent them. Some of the most basic ways your child can avoid a concussion is to always wear proper safety equipment, follow their coach’s rules for safety, the rules of the sport and practice good sportsmanship. Awareness of signs and symptoms of concussions – commonly headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and short term memory loss – is vital to allow for immediate removal from the sporting event and to help monitor when it is safe to return.

An ACL injury is a tear in one of the knee ligaments that joins the upper leg bone with the lower leg bone. The ACL keeps the knee stable and bears a large amount of stress during sport activities. Injuries can range from mild, such as a sprain of the ligament, to severe, when the ligament tears completely or when the ligament and part of the bone separate from the rest of the bone. However, if your child performs training drills that improve balance, power and agility to their lower body, and plan for at least four weeks of endurance training before their sport begins, they can help protect themselves from ACL injuries.

When parents and kids work together, sports injuries can be prevented.

If you feel your child has suffered a sports-related injury or would like to learn more, contact the Pediatric Orthopedic Specialty Center at (562) 933-0249.

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