Medical Studies & Science

Young Athletes And Knee Injuries

Children are training differently today and there is a higher acceptance of training intensively at a young age. At the same time, knee injuries are on the rise in child and adolescent athletes, according to researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Young athletes work out as adults and tend to become specialized at an earlier age than before, according to PhD J. T. Lawrence (AAP, 2011). Dr. J. DiFiori, President of American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, further explains that there is a growing emphasis on competitive success, which has led to increased pressure to start training with high intensity at young ages. Something which in turn may be a significant contributing factor for overuse injuries (Safe Kids USA, 2014).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, knee injuries are on the rise in child and adolescent athletes. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia noted a more than 400% increase of sport injuries at their institution over the last decade. Their research reviewed records of patients under 18 treated for tibial spine fractures, ACL and meniscal tears, in the period of 1999 and 2011 at a large academic children’s hospital (AAP, 2011).

The text below gives you an indication and brief overview of three commonly occurring knee injuries.  The information has been collected from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s medical section as well as Rehband’s Injury Guide.

Osgood-Schlatter

Osgood-Schlatter is a common condition which causes knee pain in growing pre-teenagers and teenagers. Almost 20% of growing athletes are affected during puberty phase. The condition is often seen in athletes doing sports which entail sudden changes of movement and jumping.

Osgood-Schlatter occurs due to overload and inflammation on the point where the patellar tendon meets the lower leg (also known as the growth zone). This is just below the knee cap. Symptoms such as pain at the point where the tendon meets the shinbone, swelling and tenderness or a bulge appearing where the tendon attaches, can be experienced.

Rest during periods of inflammation and icing of the affected area after any immediate activity can be treatment methods. However, contacting a physician and having the condition evaluated is recommended since knee pain can be caused by many different reasons.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

PFPS is also one of the most prevalent pain conditions in the knee joint (patellofemoral joint) causing knee pain. The patella glides in a so-called “groove” at the end of the thigh bone, when the knee is bent and straightened. However, when suffering from PFPS, the patella glides incorrectly and outside the groove and causes pain. It can affect both active and inactive people and is, just as Schlatter, a common complaint among young athletes, especially among teenage girls.

The pain is often triggered in connection to physical activity and thus when the patellofemoral joint is activated e.g. when squatting, while walking in stairs, jumping, standing up from a sitting to a standing position, walking and running. The experienced pain limits physical activities and swelling, popping and snapping can be experienced.

There can be multiple reasons to why this condition occurs, for example muscular imbalance in the leg such as weakness and tightness in the front thigh muscle. Hyper-pronation, incorrect position of the patella, overloading of the joint etc. are other possible causes.

 

ACL – Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

Our knees have four main ligaments and the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of them. Their purpose is to stabilize the knee joint and to prevent the tibia (shinbone) from rotating on femur (thigh bone).

Injuries to the ACL can occur when excessive stress is put across the ligament, and it ends up tearing. Something which for example can occur in sports where there is extensive direct contact and sharp changes in direction. A sensation and feeling of a “pop” can be experienced, as well as immediate pain and swelling.

Summing Up

Other common knee injuries, apart from the three injuries described above, are dislocation of the knee cap, other ligament and meniscal tears, patellar instability as well as sprains, fractions and strains of the knee. As you hear, many things can go wrong with our knees. Keep them safe!

Sources 

Safe Kids USA, “Interview with an Expert”  (2014) Available at: Available at: https://www.safekids.org/ blog/interview-expert 

AAP, “Knee Injuries In Children and Adolescents: Has There Been An Increase in ACL and Meniscus Tears in Recent Years?” (2011). Available at: https://www.aap.org/ en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/Knee-Injuries-on-the-Rise-in-Child-and-Adolescent-Athletes.aspx

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, “More about Osgood-Schlatter Disease”, Available at: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/services/pediatric-sports-medicine/injuries/knee-conditions/more-about-osgood-schlatter

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital,”Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome”,  Available at: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/services/pediatric-sports-medicine/injuries/knee-conditions/patellofemoral-pain-syndrome

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, “Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury”, Available at: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/services/pediatric-sports-medicine/injuries/knee-conditions/anterior-cruciate-ligament-(acl)-injury

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