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Featured KCBJ Problem: The ACL Tear, part 5: “Career Ender”?

ACL tear

“The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee. The incidence of ACL injuries is currently estimated at approximately 200,000 annually, with 100,000 ACL reconstructions performed each year. In general, the incidence of ACL injury is higher in people who participate in high-risk sports, such as basketball, football, skiing, and soccer.”  Source: AAOS

 

There was a recent article in the Star Tribune regarding the advancements in ACL surgery.

 

The good news? Orthopedic medicine is advancing! The article tells the story of a Chicago Bears football player Leslie Frazier in the 1985 Superbowl. He sustained an ACL tear and was unable to ever return to his level of play. In comparison, the article describes the recent injury of Adrianne Peterson, the runningback from the Vikings who underwent surgery at the end of December 2011 and is expected back this season.

 

When interviewed about the difference in his surgery versus Peterson’s, Frazier states “It’s a totally different procedure than when I had mine. It’s no comparison. The cut on my knee looks a lot different…”

 

Our advances in surgical techniques such as arthroscopy, technology and rehabilitation over the past several years have allowed the ACL reconstruction recovery to significantly better outcomes.

 

Dr. Gerald McNamara in our office states that “95% (of patients) do well with an ACL reconstruction.” That is a very high percentage and these active individuals can go back to the activities that they want to do. This was not necessarily the case two decades ago.

 

Faster Rehabilitation?

Yes, in the comparison that we don’t place our patients in casts for 6-8 weeks following an ACL reconstruction. Rehabiliation begins the day of or day after surgery.

 

The ACL graft takes time to mature, independent of how a patient is progressing in physical therapy. Studies have shown that it is only at approximately 50% strength at 3 months out from surgery, and only at 80% strength at 9 months removed from the surgery. Athletes must be protected during this window of recovery in order to minimize the risks of re-injury.

 

Yes, it is a faster rehabilitation, but our physiology needs time to heal. Patience in combination with hard work will get you “back in the game”.

 

written by: Amy Roberts MS, ATC/L

Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic

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