ACL injuries sending Warwick youths to the bench
AT 19 years old, Warwick teenager Tom Duggan has already suffered two crippling injuries to his anterior cruciate ligament, commonly known as the ACL.
Both injuries happened while he was playing rugby, his most recent injury occurred in May when he was tackled from the side.
"The first time I had no clue what I had done, but the second time I knew straight away," he said.
Tom has undergone two ligament repair surgeries, where the hamstring ligament is cut and a piece is attached to the knee. Recovery from these surgeries takes up to a year.
These types of injuries are not unusual. Every day on fields and courts across Australia, young athletes are repeatedly having their sporting dreams put on hold.
New research reveals Australia has the highest rates of ACL reconstructions in the world, and they are being reported in younger and younger athletes, some as young as seven or eight.
It is not yet clear what is causing the growing rate of ACL damage, but principal physiotherapist at The Physiotherapy Centre in Warwick Josh Hay said the quality of sport competitions was a contributing factor.
"It's a reflection of the number of sports and the level of professionalism young athletes are participating in," Mr Hay said.
"The higher the sport, the harder and faster the playing and more risk of injury."
The number of young Australians undergoing knee reconstruction surgery has risen more than 70 per cent in the last 15 years, a phenomenon Mr Hay finds devastating, as it can be prevented with proper strengthening training.
"Proprioception exercises are designed to improve your awareness of your joint position, which can protect your ligaments from injury," Mr Hay said.
"Not only is it an important part of prevention, it's key in rehabilitation."
Tom said he was never specifically coached to build the muscle around the knee and through his rehabilitation he's teaching his teammates preventative measures.
A month on from his second surgery, he can now walk with ease, however, he is still deciding whether he will return to the game.