NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Male high school athletes are more likely to sustain knee injuries than girls, but female athletes have twice the risk of major knee injuries that require surgery, new data shows.
And while illegal play accounted for just 5.7 percent of all the injuries reported, 20 percent of these knee injuries required surgery.
The findings underscore the importance of enforcing rules in high school sports, Ellen E. Yard of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told Reuters Health. And despite the greater risk of injuries for girls, she added, the benefits of being physically active by far outweigh these risks for both boys and girls.
The knee is the second most frequently injured part of the body (the ankle was the first), and knee injuries are on the rise among teens, Yard and her team note in their report. To better understand the nature of these injuries in high school sports, she and her colleagues looked at data from a nationally representative sample of 100 US high schools covering the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years.
They included nine different sports in their analysis: boys' football, soccer, volleyball, basketball and wrestling; and girls' soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball.
Knee injuries were three times as likely to happen in games compared to practice, the researchers found. The highest rates of injury were seen in football, girls' soccer, wrestling, and girls' basketball. Baseball and softball players had the lowest rate of knee injuries.
Among the 1,383 total knee injuries reported, 32 percent were incomplete ligament tears, 15.2 percent were bruises, 13.2 percent were complete ligament tears, 8 percent involved torn cartilage, 5.8 percent were fractures or dislocations, and 5.6 percent were muscle tears.
Girls had 2.5 times the risk of sustaining a complete ligament tear compared to boys; this type of injury is the chief cause of knee surgery. Girls were also more likely than boys to have injuries that required them to stay off the field for more than 3 weeks.
Contact with another person accounted for about half of the injuries, but for girls, major knee injuries were twice as likely to result from causes other than contact.
"Although girls' soccer and basketball do not involve the same amount of contact as football and wrestling, the persistent stress on the knee joint due to accelerating/decelerating, cutting, and landing from a jump in these sports could play as crucial a role in knee injury as does contact with a player or the playing surface," Yard and her colleagues say.
The rate and severity of these injuries could be reduced, they conclude, by implementing proven prevention strategies such as strength and movement training.
SOURCE: American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2008.