There are a few injuries that professional athletes fear. One of which is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. ACL injury has ended careers of numerous soccer, baseball, basketball and football players. In essence, it is usually due to sports that involve pivoting, jumping and rapid changes of direction. The ACL is wedged between the tibia and femur bones, its main role is to prevent the shin bone from moving out in front of the thigh bone. Many ACL injuries occur when an athlete tries to shift his or her body in a fast and awkward manner. It may also be caused by athlete colliding or a strong external force striking the knee when it is planted firmly on the ground. This is usually more pronounced if the lower leg is facing forward.
It is interesting to note though that female high school and college athletes are significantly more likely to sustain ACL injuries than males who are playing similar sports. This is mainly because when females jump, they tend to jump with greater hip movement and land in more risky positions.
The tell-tale sign that something is wrong with the ACL is, a sharp, popping sound coming from the damaged knee. The blood vessels in the ACL are sliced open, this vessel damage results in a fair amount of bleeding and noticeable swelling. It gives the feeling that the knee is almost slipping backwards behind the shin. The injuries range from mild such as a small tear to severe where the ligament and part of the bone separate from the rest of the bone. ACL is categorized into Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 tiers. Grade 1 tiers have some ligament fibers torn but the patient does feel some fair amount of pain. A grade 2 tier does have a higher number of torn fibers with moderate loss of motion capability and a higher amount of pain. Grade 3 is the most severe and can cripple the knee joint and is accompanied with significant loss of motion.
Through significant advances in the medical technology field as well as developments in surgical procedures, the field of medical science has become more adept and effective in treating and repairing damaged ACL, thus giving injured athletes a higher chance of getting back on the field and off the sidelines.
First and foremost, Grade 1 and most Grade 2 tears usually don’t require any surgery since they are minor treatments which can be treated through physiotherapy. Many patients with such injuries often choose to forego surgery and opt for knee braces which are quite effective in stabilizing the damaged knee. Treating a Grade 3 injury, on the other hand, does demand surgery. Unfortunately, not everyone goes for these treatment options. There will be a significant risk if an ACL injury is left untreated.
If not properly treated or left untreated, ACL injury can allow bones to grind together, leading to a very painful scenario that’s medically known as chronic ACL deficiency. This can steadily and surely erode the padding and cartilage inside the knee joint. This does lead to constant pain in the joint and can subsequently lead to the development of osteoarthritis, an aliment which causes the patient to suffer long term pain in the joint that’s been afflicted by the injury.
It has also been noted that an active individual such as a college student with a non-functional ACL is more susceptible to the meniscus injury.
A study was undertaken by Satku et al aptly titled “Natural History of ACL injuries” did show that at least 68% of people who didn’t treat their ACL injuries properly lost at least one meniscus after more than five years of follow-up. The loss of meniscus leads to an increase in cartilage wear, especially so for those who are doing strenuous activities.
Studies have also shown that the activity level of an ACL deficient patient does reduce significantly after the injury. Another study conducted by Muadi et al from the University of Sydney did find out that ACL deficient knees which have been managed conservatively have a reduced activity level, by around 21% after the injury.
All in all, it is advisable to get your ACL injury treated as soon as possible. You should always consult an orthopaedic specialist who will advises you on the best mode of treatment. Once a treatment regimen has been suggested and adopted, it is important to see through the treatment procedure for best results.