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Jay P. Shah, M.D. Answers Questions On ACL, a Common Ligament Injury for Athletes

Jay P. Shah, M.D. Answers Questions On: ACL, a Common Ligament Injury for Athletes

What is an ACL injury and how does it happen?

ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, which is the primary stabilizing structure of the knee when it comes to motion in the anterior/posterior (front/back) and rotational (twisting) planes. Injuries to the ACL commonly occur during athletic activities that require a cutting maneuver. The athlete plants the foot, and the knee buckles while attempting to change direction to complete the cut.    

How common are ACL injuries? Are there groups of people who are more prone to them?

ACL injuries are fairly common. Between 100,000 and 200,000 surgeries are performed on them every year in the United States alone. When it comes to sports such as basketball, soccer, and recreational skiing, women tend to be more prone to injury compared to men. However, there are no gender differences seen in volleyball and expert skiing.

How would someone know if he or she suffered an ACL injury?

Most injuries happen without contact when an athlete attempts to make a cut. The person usually feels a pop, the knee buckle, pain, swelling, and the inability to bear weight. An MRI confirms the injury.

What treatment options exist?

Because the ACL is located inside the knee, once it’s torn, it usually doesn’t heal on its own. The ligament has to be reconstructed with a graft. There are multiple graft options. The personality of the athlete has to be matched with the graft in order to achieve the best outcome.

Are there things that can be done to prevent ACL injuries?

There has been a push recently to develop programs to decrease the number of these injures. Programs such as Sports Metrics and FIFA 11 have been successful in significantly decreasing the number of ACL injuries in their respective sports. A program for volleyball players, which teaches them to land with both feet, nearly eliminated the injury for the teams that used it.