February 19, 2008
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) applauds the New York Times for alerting the public to the increased occurrence of ACL injuries among young athletes in the article "A Big-Time Injury Striking Little Player's Knees" (February 18).
In Ms. Kolata's excellent article, Crystal Link, the mother of an 11-year old ACL patient, points out that her son's "six months of physical therapy, was often painful and always difficult, physically and emotionally."
Although sometimes painful initially, starting physical therapy early significantly decreases the amount of post-operative pain and swelling.
Early physical therapist treatment is also instrumental in restoring an individual's muscle function, balance, and proprioception (the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body). This can now be accomplished in 6 months rather than between 12 and 18 months as was common a few years ago.
ACL tears in 11-year-olds are uncommon and these injuries are emotionally difficult with athletes of all ages. However, with improved care given by a licensed physical therapist the pain and emotional stressors are significantly reduced and with better long- term outcomes.
R Scott Ward, PT, PhD
American Physical Therapy Association