ACL injuries are on the rise: prevention is key
Unfortunately, major knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures are a common occurrence in sports involving high speed change of direction, accelerations and sudden stops. High risk sports include Australian rules football, rugby union, rugby league, netball, basketball, soccer, and skiing.
New research published last week revealed the incidence of ACL reconstructions in Australia are the highest in the world. Over the past 15 years, annual incidence rates have increased annually by 43%, with a 74% increase in those aged 25 years or under. Worryingly the rate of reconstruction is increasing most rapidly among those aged 5-14 years.
According to the authors, “the rise of ACL injury in young people has been attributed to earlier sports specialisation by younger athletes, longer sporting seasons, more intense training, higher level of competition, and a lack of free play”.
Due to the costly surgery, long rehabilitation time and increased risk of osteoarthritis associated with ACL injuries, the study findings stressed the need for the establishment of a national ACL injury prevention program. Whilst development of a national program will take time, it is important to know that there is already strong research evidence that acute knee injuries can be reduced by up to 50% using structured exercise programs targeting development of improved trunk and lower limb strength strength, balance and neuromuscular control.
Several prevention programs are currently available, all of which are designed to be performed as a structured warm-up prior to training and matches. These include the FIFA 11+,The Knee Program, and the PEP program.
If you are participating in a high-risk sport and would like guidance as to how to best to reduce your risk of knee injury book a consultation with one of our experienced physiotherapists.
James Alexander, Physiotherapist.