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Growth Plate Knee Injuries, Ligament Injuries & Treatments in the San Fernando Valley

Dr. Daniel Silver - Silver Orthopedics September 26, 2017

Now that it is football and hockey season I can't help but think about knee injuries. There are all degrees of knee injuries that occur - from the very minor tweaks to major ligament (ACL, MCL, etc.,) damage and fractures. These injuries caused by sports affect young people (such as professional athletes) in a very different way than they affect older adults.

Let's talk about the young athlete's injuries first. In football, a common knee injury occurs because one player's foot is planted firmly on the ground, when another player's body falls onto the leg. All the stress of this impact usually goes to the knee. In athletes under age 17 or 18, the growth plates of the tibia and femur are still quite weak. Because they are weaker than the knee ligaments, it is the growth plates that are most affected by the force (the hit from the other player).

If the force is great enough, a complete separation (fracture) of the growth plate occurs in the knee. There are various types of growth plate injuries (fractures) and almost all of them require a form of knee surgery to repair. Common knee surgeries to repair growth plate injuries include open reduction (putting the bones back in proper place), and internal fixation, with threaded large pins.

Even though the ligaments surrounding the knee are stronger than the growth plates, young athletes can still suffer injuries to the knee ligaments. Older teenagers tend to have more ligament injuries than growth plate fractures due to the increased strength of the bone and growth plate, which occurs with age. When a non-growth plate knee injury occurs, most of the time the knee ligaments (ACL or MCL) are sprained or partially torn. These ligament injuries can be treated conservatively with a brace, medicine, and physical therapy. It is only in cases of a complete tear of the ligaments, that knee surgery followed by bracing and physical therapy will be necessary.

Because knees are at great risk in football, knee braces are increasingly being worn to prevent injuries. I happen to think this a great idea. Even though knee braces are not 100% effective at preventing knee injuries in young SoCal athletes, they do help. I recommend wearing them.

In ice hockey (my favorite sport) the skates usually glide smoothly on the ice, so it takes a very unusual hit from a very bad angle to tear the ligaments in the knee. A fracture of a bone near the knee is even more unusual. All the same, shin guards worn by hockey players provide valuable, additional protection of the knee. Unfortunately, the players most susceptible to knee injuries in hockey tend to be the goalies. This is due to the very heavy pads they wear and the continuous up and down motion they must do.

In both football and hockey, there is risk of contact with other players moving at high velocities. Knee injuries, along with many other orthopedic injuries, can occur and the risk for injuries is inherent in these sports. To best prevent sports injuries in the San Fernando Valley, superior physical conditioning resulting in strong muscles and quick reflexes will help mitigate these common knee injuries. Running, weight work, stretching, power skating, and practicing the specific sport are my recommendations for success and to lower the risks of growth plate injury or ligament injury to the knee.

For an Appointment or Consultation with Dr. Silver, please call 818-784-9593