Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries, Among the Most Common in Athletes and Active Aging Alike

One of the most commonly injured parts of the body is the knee. As a load bearing joint, it is subject to extensive wear and tear over time, which affects the cartilage and connecting ligaments within the joint. This is accelerated if an individual is involved in rigorous sports.

The knee joint is comprised of four bones, the femur, tibia, fibula and patella, which are connected by stabilizing ligaments such as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). Cushioning cartilage such as the meniscus allows the bones to move smoothly over one another, and surrounding muscles such as the quadriceps and hamstrings help support the knee.

Knee injuries commonly occur when the supporting muscles are not equally strengthened therefore leaving one side more vulnerable than the other. They also occur, when despite the best conditioning, a force or twist pushes the joint beyond its range – damaging the cartilage, ligament, or both.

Among the most common knee injuries in athletes and weekend warriors alike is an ACL tear. Patients generally report hearing a “pop” followed by knee instability. If left untreated, the unstable joint created by the injury could lead to the early onset of osteoarthritis.

ACL tears are generally addressed surgically only after swelling in the area has subsided and the leg is properly strengthened for optimal post surgical results.

An approach yielding superior long-term results is an ACL reconstruction using an autograft (living tissue) rather than an allograft (cadaver tissue) – specifically a patella tendon graft from the healthy, uninjured leg.

“We have found that, particularly in our athletes planning to resume the same rigorous sport that prompted the injury, repairing the ACL with living tissue from their other healthy leg results in a more rapid recovery,” said Dr. Mark Sanders, renowned orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician in Houston.

“The impact of surgery is shared by both legs, allowing the injured leg to more rapidly resume range of motion – both responding very well to rehabilitation. It is the rapid resumption of movement that permits the necessary strengthening to occur. Lengthy periods of immobilization often associated with conventional ACL reconstructions can create stiffness that may become permanent – preventing full range of motion,” Sanders added.

For more information on ACL injuries and other orthopedic conditions, log onto Or, contact the professional staff at Sanders Clinic for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at 888-8 DR MARK (24/7).