Photo: Knee Injury

David M. Trettin, M.D.
Board-Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon
North Louisiana Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Clinic
Subspecialty: Certified in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine

Subject:  ACL Tears – Getting Back in the Game

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is usually caused by a sudden twisting motion in the knee when an athlete lands or stops. Oftentimes, the athlete will hear a “pop” sound in addition to experiencing instantaneous pain once the injury is sustained. Common reasons athletes suffer ACL injuries include sudden deceleration and landings with the leg in a vulnerable position. In fact, oftentimes athletes suffer this injury without any contact from another athlete, but instead by merely reacting to another player/athlete. Interestingly, female athletes sustain more ACL injuries than male athletes. Theories as to why this occurs is how the female knee is typically aligned (women have more of a “knock-knee alignment) and also the fact that women tend to be more “ligament dominant” than “muscle dominant.” Athletes can prevent ACL injuries by training themselves to land on the balls of their feet as opposed to landing flat-footed. Also, strengthening their quadriceps muscles and working on balance (proprioceptive exercise) can be helpful. Warming up thoroughly before participating in sports and strength training to make muscles firmer are two other means of preventing ACL injury. In addition to the “popping” sound that occurs with ACL injuries, other symptoms may include a buckling leg/knee, and swelling (within 24 hours). Once the swelling subsides, athletes may be able to return to daily life activities but oftentimes the injury recurs once the athlete returns to competition. Proper diagnosis of an ACL injury always begins with a thorough examination by a competent physician. As part of the exam, the doctor may perform tests to determine whether the component parts of the knee stay in their proper position after applying pressure in all directions. While an MRI is often used to detect an ACL tear, the most reliable means to detect an ACL is via arthroscopy. The arthroscopy procedure (or knee scope) requires only a small surgical incision sufficient to allow a tiny camera to detect the ACL tear. Should the athlete’s ACL injury require surgical intervention, six to nine months is a good estimate of time before the athlete can return to their preoperative sport. Physical therapy is highly recommended during this postoperative period. North Louisiana Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Clinic is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat athlete ACL injuries. Please contact our office if you’ve been sidelined by an ACL injury, and let us help you get back in the game. To ask questions about this or orthopaedic-related topics, please visit me at www.healthtap.com.

 David M. Trettin, M.D.