Gymnastics is a fun sport that can help your child become strong and athletic, but it can also lead to injuries. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are one of the many injuries that young gymnasts may experience. Here are three things parents need to know about ACL injuries.

What are ACL injuries?

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four ligaments within the knee joint. It connects the distal femur to the tibial plateau, and it helps to stabilize the knee. This crucial ligament can become stretched or torn during sports.

If your child suffers an ACL injury, they’ll hear a popping sound from within their knee. Within a few hours, their knee will become swollen due to hemarthrosis. Hemarthrosis is a medical term that refers to bleeding within a joint. The pain and swelling will keep them from being able to practice, and they may not even be able to stand on their knee without it giving out beneath them.

How do gymnastics cause ACL injuries?

ACL injuries can occur when the ligament is overstressed, and it’s easy for this to happen during gymnastics. If your child lands a jump short, they could stretch or tear their ligament. They could also injure their ligament if they over-rotate during a tumble, vault or other maneuver and then land poorly. Pivoting the body without moving the feet during balance beam routines can also stress and damage the ligament.

How are ACL injuries treated?

After an initial period of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) care at home, your child will need to go to physiotherapy for several weeks. Their physiotherapist lead them through exercises to help them regain their strength and flexibility, and they may be told to do these exercises at home, too. If your child has been assigned at-home exercises by their physiotherapist, make sure they do them.

If your child doesn’t want to participate in sports anymore, they won’t need further treatment after they’re done physiotherapy. If they want to keep participating in gymnastics or other sports, they’ll need surgery to repair their ligament. A piece of tendon (a tissue that’s similar to a ligament) will be taken from their other knee and grafted onto their damaged ligament to repair it. Further physiotherapy will be required to help them recover from the surgery, and it may take a year for them to get back to gymnastics.

If you think your child injured their ACL during gymnastics, take them to a doctor like Advance Medical of Naples right away.