William W. Winternitz, Jr., M.D.
Orthopedic Sports Medicine
Pomerado Orthopedic Specialists
My wife’s soccer team seems plagued by torn anterior cruciate ligaments. What’s going on?
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, a leading cause of non-contact sports injuries, have reached epidemic levels and that is especially true among female athletes. Studies show that female athletes are eight times more likely to have this injury than are male athletes.
The ACL is one of four ligaments that stabilize the knee. The ACL can be injured by direct trauma such as from a football tackle or by losing balance and twisting the knee.
The telltale sign of this injury is a “popping” of the knee along with swelling. I recommend applying the RICE procedure immediately. RICE is Rest, Ice, Compression (with an Ace bandage) and Elevate. An anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen helps reduce swelling and relieve pain.
A comprehensive evaluation can determine the extent of damage. If the knee is unstable, surgery is the only option to sufficiently restore strength and stability to allow the return to active sports. However, recovery from this surgery requires a minimum of four to six months of rehabilitation and often up to one year to regain your previous performance level. That much “down time” is often difficult for people who enjoy participating in sports.
For that reason, I promote prevention through a specialized conditioning program called PEP (Prevent injury, Enhance Performance). When added to a team’s regular training, the PEP Program has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of ACL injury by increasing flexibility, strength and agility.