What are the most common sports injuries in teens and young adults?
Teens and young adults are susceptible to a wide variety of injuries that can occur during sports. However, due to the nature of growth, they are more susceptible to specific types of injuries including overuse injuries from repetitive stress, as well as injuries to the growth plate.
What is the difference between a MCL and ACL injury? Is one injury worse than the other?
The ACL and MCL are two of the main ligaments that provide stability to the knee. Injuries to the ACL and MCL can occur individually or in combination. Injuries of the ACL and/or MCL can lead to swelling and giving way of the knee. In general, many MCL tears can heal without surgery after a course of bracing and physical therapy. In contrast, ACL tears are not likely to heal, and may need surgery to stabilize and restore the normal function of the knee.
What sports or activities cause the most MCL and ACL injuries? Are they more common in males or females?
ACL and MCL injuries most commonly occur in sports that require cutting and pivoting with potential for collision. This involves sports such as football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse. Even though the number of ACL injuries is greater overall in males than females, female athletes are 4 to 8 times more likely to sustain a tear of the ACL than males.
What tips should young athletes adopt to prevent injuries?
- Many ACL injuries can occur with a non-contact mechanism (without collision), and the main modifiable risk factor for ACL injury has been shown to be related to deficiencies in neuromuscular control. This refers to an abnormality in the muscle balance and strength of the muscles that support the knee. Female athletes, in particular, are more likely to have this problem despite being otherwise strong and able to perform at a high level of competition. Improving muscle control and strength with specific exercises has been shown to reduce risk of injury by approximately 75%. Preventative training programs should be an important consideration for athletes, as these exercises can often be incorporated into their workouts and warm-ups.
- Overuse injuries can occur due to excessive and repetitive use. It is important for an athlete to get enough rest to allow for recovery in between workouts. Athletes should also gradually increase the intensity of training, particularly after an offseason, to avoid risk of overuse injuries. Additionally, we recommend that youth athletes diversify the sports they play, as single-sport specialization (playing one sport year-round) at an early age has been associated with increased risk for injury.