Doc Talk | Treating an ACL injury

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A lot of people think that most athletes who tear their ACL do it because they play contact sports, like football. Doctors say the ACL tears when you plant your foot and turn briskly, or pivot.

ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. It’s the ligament most responsible for knee stability.

“Your shin bone comes forward and smacks against your thigh bones and that tears what we call the anterior cruciate ligament,” said Geisinger Holy Spirit Sports Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Callista Costopoulos Morris.

She says you’ll know you’ve torn it almost right away.

“Most people have a very sudden pop in their knee. You get a very large infusion. It’s difficult to put weight on the leg after it happens,” said Dr. Morris.

An ACL tear is common in sports including soccer, basketball and football or any sport where an athlete pivots on his or her feet. It’s almost more common in women.

“Our pelvises are a little wider. It puts more a little more stress on our knee and we have a quad/hamstring imbalance that males don’t experience,” said Dr. Morris.

If it’s not completely torn, rehab and a brace can help repair the ligament. But most likely, doctors would have to operate, using tissue from either the knee, the quadriceps or the hamstring.

“You create a new ligament out of the tissue in your own body and then the body breaks it down and rebuilds it to form its own ligament within the body and that takes time,” said Dr. Morris.

In adults, it usually takes nine to twelve months total to heal. There’s always a 4% chance it could re-tear, but doctors say generally ACL surgery is very successful.

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