Young athletes and ligament injury
Yorkshire Knee Clinic’s Dave Duffy explores why a 12-month layoff from sport may be the right solution for young athletes with ligament damage.
A few years ago, if your child suffered a sports injury that resulted in ligament damage, the standard recommendation would have been a six to nine month break from sports to give the ligament time to fully heal.
Recently, we’ve seen a growing body of research to suggest that length of sporting abstinence is too short. A paper published recently by the University of Gothenburg, concluded that “young athletes are now recommended to undergo at least a year’s rehab and thorough testing before resuming knee-strenuous sport.”
The problem is that, if you’re under 18 and have a ligament injury, we know your chances of reinjury once you return to high impact sport are up to 25% higher than for over-18s. We’re not absolutely certain why that is, but the smart money is on several factors combining to increase risk.
Some of those issues are likely to be developmental and biological in a body still going through growth and hormonal changes. Under 18s are also unlikely to have developed the muscle strength or plyometric control (i.e. the ability to manage the explosive force of jumping or breaking into a sprint from a standing start) of an older athlete.
And some of the issues are likely to be compliance-related. Which, without wishing to stereotype teenagers, is a polite way of saying they’re less likely to follow the medical advice and typically choose to push things further, faster than they should.
Telling any athlete they’ll be out of serious sporting action for a year is a tough conversation to have. For a teenager, for a whom a year represents a significant proportion of their life to date, it feels like an eternity, but the evidence increasingly suggests it’s the right thing to do. Unless we slow the rate of return, there’s a worrying risk of re-rupture, which would effectively mean one recovery period of six to nine months, closely followed by another nine-month spell out.
In that context, 12 months is clearly the better option.
If your child has suffered a sporting knee injury, please get in touch.