Young athletes who injure their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) – one of the four major ligaments in the knee – have more to worry about than the long road to recovery and being sidelined for months at a time. Nearly 70 percent of those early ACL injuries will lead to an early onset of osteoarthritis, a degenerative arthritis that causes the breakdown of the cartilage in joints that only worsens over time.

A new study at the University of Michigan is looking to offer these young athletes hope and relief from degenerative arthritis. Led by Riann Palmieri, Ph.D., assistant professor in the University of Michigan (U-M) Division of Kinesiology, and Edward Wojtys, M.D., medical director of MedSport Sports Medicine Program at U-M Health System (UMHS), the study will work to identify the earliest signs of degenerative arthritis in young knees, to allow for early medical intervention that would prevent the progression of the disease.

“There’s no doubt that the number of ACL injuries have increased, especially among children,” says Wojtys, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the U-M Medical School. “What’s concerning is that by the time those kids are in their late teens or early 20s, they’ll be living with osteoarthritis as a result of that ACL injury.”

He continues: “If our study can identify the earliest changes in the knee joint among these young athletes, we have the hope to do something to try to prevent the ongoing progress.” The study will use sophisticated imaging such as MRI and biochemical techniques to look for changes in the knee joints of teens who have suffered ACL injuries. They are frequently associated with damage to the delicate lining on the surface of bone that does not heal.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan