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Torn ACLs: 4 Things You Should Know

June 1, 2011

When it comes to sports injuries, an ACL tear can be one of the worst one injury you can get to your knee. But it really depends on the severity.

Here are four quick facts you should know about a torn ACL that can help you determine such questions as “How bad is the injury?” and “Do I need surgery?”

ACL Injuries Are Common

Watch a season of professional football and you will see at least one or two players go down with a torn ACL. Compound that for 32 teams and you can see that ACL tears happen all the time.

In fact, close to 200,000 people injure their ACL every year according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. These people also include athletes who play basketball and soccer. In other words, people injure their ACL when they stop suddenly and make quick turns.

Fortunately, only half of those people will actually undergo reconstructive surgery to rebuild the ligament.

Regarding reconstructive surgery, it’s not actually true that you rebuild the ligament. The torn tendon is actually replaced with a piece of your patella tendon, hamstring tendon. In some cases a surgeon will use a graft from a cadaver called an allograft.

Some surgeons believe the allograft is the superior procedure due to the pain and stiffness connected to a patella tendon procedure. However, the donor tendon is more prone to infection.

Woman Suffer ACL Injuries More Than Men

Doctor’s aren’t sure why, but women injure their ACLs far more frequently than men.

It could be differences in the anatomy of a woman’s leg, her strength and conditioning. Her hormones are even thought to play a role in ACL injuries.

Coaches and trainers should teach young female athletes to strengthen their legs, improving neuromuscular coordination. The exercises behind these techniques are thought to reduce the risk for injury. I know in our practice we’ve seen this to be true.

Torn ACL Will Pop

The primary job of your ACL is to stabilize your knee, keeping it from twisting or sliding behind your hamstring. When it’s torn, your knee wobbles and pops. Sometimes people near you can even hear the pop. If you feel like your knee wobbles and can hear a pop, see your doctor as soon as you can.

Is ACL Reconstructive Surgery for You?

Because you’ve torn your ACL doesn’t mean you are crippled. In fact, many people with torn ACLs can function normally. It really just depends upon the severity of your injury.

This means you might be able to avoid reconstructive surgery, especially if your job and life do not require a functional ACL and you don’t have a unstable knee.

But ignoring the pain and symptoms of a torn ACL can also lead to life-long issues, like premature arthritis. Talk to your doctor about your options.

 

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