Medical Briefs: Five Things YOU Should Know!

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ACL Injury Risk of Young Kids in Sports

ACL tears are being recognized more frequently in kids younger than the age of 10. We are seeing this in our clinic as well. This is likely due to both increased recognition and awareness of the injury by physicians, and an actual gain in injury rate for this age group. Forty percent of kids under the age of ten who have ACL tears are not aware of when and how they were injured. In a research study in Australia, 3.1% of ACL tears were found in kids ages 5-9. Sports injuries accounted for 57% of these injuries. Most injuries occurred with participation in ball sports, and 20% more girls than boys were injured while participating in organized ball sports. Overall in the past decade there has been a large increase in the rate of ACL injuries in kids ages 14 and younger with an increase of 148%. The concern with this increase in ACL tears is not only disruption to the young person’s life, but also the risk of early onset arthritis as they age into adulthood even if the ACL is reconstructed and fully rehabbed with pain-free return to full function.

Early Sports Specialization

Of all active roster athletes who participated in last month’s Super Bowl LII for the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles combined, 96% of these elite NFL football players participated in more than one sport in high school, with the highest percentage also participating in track (58%) and basketball (43%). Another study just released by the University of Connecticut found reduced injury risk for youth athletes who sample a variety of sports versus focusing on just one sport. When assessing technique when landing (which is a known risk for ACL tear), young athletes with multi-sport experience did twice as well as single sport athletes, which is thought to reduce their overall risk of ACL tears, tendonitis, and stress fractures.

Atrial Fibrillation and Strength-Trained Athletes

A study published in January in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology outlined the dichotomy faced by cardiologists who recommend exercise for their patients to prevent the risk of heart problems like atrial fibrillation, yet report on the high risk of atrial fibrillation for endurance athletes. In endurance athletes, physical activity actually remodels the heart, making it more at risk for atrial fibrillation. But endurance athletes surprisingly are not the only athletes to demonstrate detrimental remodeling due to exercise. The American College of Cardiology just reported that former NFL football players have a 5.5 times greater risk of having atrial fibrillation as they age. Why? Well, even college freshman football players after participating in just one collegiate season demonstrate remodeling of the aortic root. In the former NFL players studied, they tended to have lower heart rates, but this did not make them immune from atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias, occurring at lower than typical heart rates. This was the first study identifying an increased risk of atrial fibrillation in strength athletes, not just endurance athletes.

The Best Diet for Heart Disease

Saturated fat intake and the risk of heart disease is one of the hottest current debates in cardiology. Since we really don’t know just yet, currently, the Mediterranean diet is considered the most heart healthy diet to follow. It is a diet high in healthier fats like fish, nuts, and olive oil, and low in sugar, with carbohydrates allowed in moderation and high fiber and whole grain carbohydrates favored most to reduce your risk of heart disease and adverse heart events. Recent research blames sugar versus saturated fat as being more detrimental in heart disease (cue the sizzling bacon!). Sugar contributes to the liver forming more LDL and less HDL (good cholesterol), in addition to raising your triglycerides. Recommendations are for adults to cut their sugar intake to 11% of their overall diet, which could be quite difficult considering all of the hidden sources of sugars in our food and beverages (and sugar substitutes are not any option because they make you crave more sugar in the long run).

Omega 3’s not effective in Reducing Heart Disease Risk

Though still up for debate, many of us take Omega 3 fatty acids to reduce our risk of heart disease. In those of us currently without heart disease, Omega 3’s have no impact in reducing the risk of getting heart disease. For patients who have had a heart attack or actively have heart disease, Omega 3 supplementation may reduce the risk of death by 7-10 percent (though barely reaching significance), but it is not effective on reducing the incidence of non-fatal heart attacks. This study was a meta-analysis published in JAMA Cardiology. Researchers say instead of investing in Omega 3’s, invest in fitness equipment and work out five days a week to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Increasing your exercise can create a 21% reduction in coronary heart disease event rate for men, 29% for women according to a study published in 2013.