Rise in ACL injuries due to pressure on youth

Andre Spruell, Opinion Co- Editor

Missing time from playing a sport is difficult for any athlete, but missing six or nine months is becoming common due to the rise of ACL injuries.

According to NBC Dallas, doctors in Philadelphia noticed a 400 percent increase in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in teens and adolescents over the last 10 years. An ACL is the ligament inside the knee joint that connects the thigh and shin bones. There are many theories as to why there has been such a significant increase with this serious injury, such as only playing one sport for many years, overworking joints, and many other factors.

Personally, I think it is due to the increased pressure put on the youth in athletics. From a young age, children are taught that if they really want something to go after it, especially when it comes to sports. One proponent is the Amateur Athletic Union, better known as AAU, is an organization that sponsors showcases and tournaments for kids and teenagers of different age groups in different sports, but are mostly known for basketball. These showcases and tournaments are a chance for kids that play for a team to showcase their talents in front of high school and college coaches in hopes of getting recruited. By doing this, it is telling kids from 8-18 years of age that getting an athletic scholarship to get a full ride at school is the best route to take.

The only problem is that I feel organizations like AAU only care about the money they get from tournaments. The teams would have to pay if it was not an invitational tournament, and the players themselves, who have to pay on average $300-600 just to be on a team. For kids who live in areas that are not wealthy and have the gift of athleticism, their only way to go to school is through athletics because of how expensive college is.

Just by having financial problems, it can become another added pressure for certain athletes which could cause further injury. As a result, many kids across the country are training like professionals before they even become teenagers for a chance to get a full athletic scholarship, and also to become a professional athlete, which is an occupation that many kids dream of achieving.

Due to over training, young athletes have a chance of facing serious injuries early. With all the possible injuries out there, tearing an ACL is arguably the worst injury an athlete can get next to breaking actual bones, but the scary part is that ACL injuries are on the rise and happen rather simply, usually through non-contact. Wilkes University athletic trainer Carl Andrews has been a trainer at Wilkes for 12 years and has been practicing in the field for 25 years.

When asked if ACL injuries are on the rise, Andrews said, “Overall yes. Athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster that lets say 20 years ago. Physically reaching a higher level at an early age, which may not be a goof thing.”

At Wilkes University alone, the terrible injury has claimed victim to dozens of athletes from various sports, including myself with basketball. Last year when I played a pickup game right after my freshman season, I tore the ACL in my right knee after landing on my leg awkwardly. Recently, a month prior to the start of my junior season, I played pickup with my teammates and tore my ACL by turning to run after the ball. From children, to teenagers, to adults, and even many professional athletes, tearing the ligament is an athlete’s worst nightmare.

Gender plays a role as female athletes are slightly ahead of male athletes as being more likely to get an ACL injury. According to the University of California, San Francisco, more than 200,000 people tear the ligament per year and most often occurs in agility sports, most common are basketball, soccer, and football. It is also mentions how 70 percent of ACL injuries are suffered through non-contact. It is important to repair the ligament if it gets damaged because it accounts for 90 percent of the stability in the knee.

Andrews also said, “It seems like athletics has become a year round affair without any breaks, which can lead to overuse syndrome, and chronic types of injuries like ACL tears.” If you are an athlete and do not want to fall victim to this fearful injury, there are many programs and exercises on the internet that focus on single leg training to strengthen the knee, a popular one being Sportsmetric.