ACL Injuries on the Rise

One of the most common knee injuries among athletes is a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the numbers are on the rise. Over the past decade, there has been a marked increase in ACL injuries primarily among female athletes. Statistically, females are five to seven times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts. As female sports injuries continue to explode, research suggests that the high rate of ACL tears may partially be due to differing hormone levels, different jumping and landing mechanisms as well as anatomical differences.

Both male and female ACL Injuries generally occur in high demand sports such as soccer, basketball and football. The ACL runs diagonally through the center of the knee and is the most important ligament in rotational stability of the knee. It can tear when forced to handle intolerable loads such as hyperextension or pivoting with the foot firmly planted.

Few sounds are more ominous than the percussive pop that can signal a ruptured knee ligament. The pop is immediately followed by a giving way and a feeling of instability in the knee joint. The goal of treatment is to stabilize the knee and typically arthroscopic reconstructive surgery is required to restore the torn ACL. Today, surgeons who specialize in sports medicine remove the torn ligament and replace it with a graft, commonly a portion of either the patient’s patellar tendon or inside hamstrings. Occasionally a cadaver graft or allograft is used in revision procedures or in older patients.

ACL restoration is a highly technical surgery. A millimeter difference here or there can have a huge impact on long term results. The procedure is one that needs to be performed by an experienced orthopedist, one who performs the surgery often and has stayed abreast of the most recent advancements concerning anatomical placement to restore rotational stability. New state of the art techniques have greatly improved success rates. After a recovery period of six to nine months along with proper strengthening and rehabilitation techniques, 96 to 98 percent of athletes are able to return to play.

To help prevent ACL injury, all athletes are strongly encouraged to stretch before, during and after activity to ensure that the hamstring, quadriceps and muscle-tendon units are flexible and prepared to absorb shock. As injuries are common with fatigue, we recommend strength and endurance training along with cross training and plyometric exercises to protect against injury.

Pocatello Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine’s primary goal is to treat athletes in a way that allows for safe and efficient return to play. From wellness to nutritional counseling to state of the art surgery and sports rehabilitation, Pocatello Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine physicians are renowned for their ability to keep high school athletes, weekend warriors and sports professionals at their very peak of performance. Whatever your passion, sport or activity, we are here to help prepare you for and keep you in the game.