This study addresses the epidemiology of knee injuries in adolescent males. Data were collected prospectively from 41 Premiership soccer academies over a 5 year period from July 2000 to June 2005. A total of 12,306 player seasons were registered in the U9 to the U16 age categories with a total of 1750 recordable injuries specific to the knee joint. There was a mean incidence of 0.71 (95% confidence interval ± 0.05) knee injuries per player per year, and a median of 17 (inter-quartile range 9-38) training days and 2 (inter-quartile range 1-4) matches missed per knee injury. Knee injuries were found to be most common in the 14-16 year age group. Six hundred and nine (35% of total) injuries were classed as severe resulting in more than 28 days' absence. Injuries were more likely to be sustained in a competitive or match-play environment (862 or 52%) than in training (796 or 48%), and a non-contact mechanism was implicated in 823 (55%) of recorded cases. Peaks in injury numbers were seen in early season and subsequent to the winter break. Sprain was the most common diagnosis recorded, with the medial collateral ligament affected in 23% of all knee injuries. Knee injuries are common in elite youth footballers. In this uninsured age group, it could be argued that earlier medical intervention may reduce long-term damage to the immature skeleton.
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