Knee injuries are not only a ‘pain in the knee’. It gets in the way of maintaining an active lifestyle. I often tell my patients that the best way to avoid knee surgery is to practice good preventive habits – stretch well, warm up right, and limit direct impacts at both work and at play.
But injuries have a tendency to happen without warning, laying waste even to the best-laid plans. A knee injury can cause damage to the meniscus, cartilage, or ligaments of the knee. Some recently published research has shown that the trauma leading an ACL tear causes damage to the cartilage that only manifests itself decades later.
The term “recovery time” has something of a fluid definition in orthopedic surgery. Typically it describes the wait time before a patient can resume his or her normal life, but it does not speak to the lingering aftereffects which may be more subtle, and which in the case of knee surgery can be far more extensive:
Famous athletes such as quarterback Tom Brady and alpine skier Lindsey Vonn have come back after ACL surgery, so how bad can it be? The truth is that surgery can restore knee function, but it does little to diminish the risk of arthritis 15 to 20 years down the line. Regardless of whether an athlete has surgery, the risk of arthritis skyrockets later in life from an ACL tear. Kids who tear their ACL today are often left with 60-year-old knees when they’re 30.