Many of our Carlsbad and North County San Diego competitive soccer players sustain ACL tear every year. Even though, sports medicine specialists take measures to prevent such devastating knee injuries, a twisting injury to the knee suffered by the Arizona Cardinals’ Darnell Dockett is just the latest ACL tear to sideline a professional athlete.
ESPN reported that Dockett, a defensive tackle, damaged the knee when his foot caught in the turf during training camp in Tempe, Ariz. Following an examination, doctors scheduled Dockett for surgery. Just a few days earlier, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford sustained an ACL tear as a result of a hard hit by a defensive lineman. Both players are out for the season. The risk of sustaining such knee injuries and other ligament tears are somewhat preventable with proper core strengthening.
ACL is short for anterior cruciate ligament, connective tissue that extends from beneath the femur (thigh bone) to the top of the tibia (the large bone in the lower leg). The smallest of the four main ligaments in the knee, it stabilizes the knee for rotational movements. The ACL enables a person to make fast “cuts” while running. It is rarely stressed during activities like jogging that do not involve sudden stops, twists or turns.
ACL tear and sprains were once referred to as “trick knees.” They occur frequently in football, basketball, soccer and tennis because of the pressure and repetitive stress that athletes put on their knees. Most of the 250,000 to 300,000 ACL tear injuries reported in the United States each year involve people who play sports. The odds of an athlete spraining or tearing an ACL reportedly is about 1,000 to 1.
ACL Tear Types:
A Grade 1 ACL tear features a ligament that has been stretched too far. It does not usually prevent normal use of the knee. A Grade 2 sprain results from the ligament being stretched to the point that it is loose. This condition also is called a partial tear. The most serious ACL tear injury, a Grade 3 sprain, is a complete tear, in which the ligament is severed and the knee becomes unstable.
The ways that Dockett and Bradford hurt their knees were typical. ACL tears result from changing direction too quickly or stopping suddenly, landing wrong on the knee after jumping, and the blunt-force trauma of a blow to the joint or a collision. When an ACL tear occurs, the person might hear a popping sound in the knee. The joint gives out and quickly becomes inflamed. This causes a great deal of pain, as well as loss of mobility and range of motion.
While a mild sprain sometimes heals without surgery, an ACL tear must be repaired for a patient to regain full use of the knee. It is not possible to merely stitch back together the two pieces of a severed ligament. Orthopedic surgeons reconstruct ACLs by grafting tissue from the patellar tendon (with attaches the kneecap to the shine bone), the hamstring tendons (in the back of the thigh) or the quadriceps tendon (which runs from the kneecap to the thigh). Tissues from cadavers also are used.
The arthroscopic procedure requires only small incisions in the skin. Surgeons insert miniature instruments, which they manipulate to graft the tissues. Patients experience less pain, and recover more quickly, than they would if more invasive surgery were needed. Sometimes, ACL injuries happen in conjunction with damage to other ligaments or cartilage. That can necessitate more extensive surgical procedures. You don’t have to live with the knee pain and instability. Contact our Orthopedic Surgery San Diego Sports Medicine specialists to help you regain your mobility and be the best athlete you can be.