At just 15, Kyra Kline has already blown out both her knees playing her favorite sport, basketball.
Her mom, Roxanna Kline, remembers the first time Kyra wrenched her knee, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. Kyra was just 11 at the time.
“The next thing you know, she turns, she buckles, she jumps,” Roxanna told TODAY. “She does it all at the same time and she doesn’t get up. I’m thinking she’ll get up in a second and she doesn’t.”
Kyra’s injuries have been severe -- but they're not unusual. A new study by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found an increase of 400 percent in the number of ACL tears treated at the hospital between 1999 and 2011.
The ACL ties the upper and lower parts of the leg together and supports and stabilizes the knee joint. Sports like basketball and soccer, which come with lots of sudden stops and changes of direction, are the most likely to cause ACL injuries.
The hospital's researchers suspect that the rising rate of ACL tears among young people may be at least partially explained by the increasing numbers of kids playing sports. Currently more than 40 million children participate in organized sports in America.
For Kyra, the injury meant knee surgery and months of physical therapy. The budding basketball star was undaunted.
“It is a little frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone play,” Kyra said. “It really -- when you’re injured -- just makes you more motivated and want to get back to sports more and work really hard in physical therapy so you can just get back out there and be active.”
As soon as she got the OK to play, Kyra was back on the court. But not for long. A year later, Kyra was sidelined once again. She’d torn the ACL in her other knee.
“The first thing that went through my mind after I got hurt was how frustrated I was because I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball for a few months and that would really put me behind all the other girls who were developing,” Kyra said.
After yet another surgery and more months of physical therapy, Kyra’s more than ready to go back on the court. And she’s convinced that what she gets out of sports far outweighs the risks of injury.
“Of course it’s always in the back of my head that I could re-injure myself but I really think that all the confidence I’ve developed after returning to sports overpowers that and I’m really confident that the amount I play now is appropriate and I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.”