When it comes to sports injuries, shoulders and knees are the parts of the body most likely to be hurt, no matter whether the athletes are school kids, professionals or older weekend warriors. The knee is one of the most complex joints in the human body. As many sports place extreme stress on the knee, it is also one of the most common sites for sports injuries.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear
Knee injuries often involve tears or ruptures to one of four major ligaments that connect the bones in the knee joint. The most common is the ACL or anterior cruciate ligament.
Sometimes, an ACL tear is accompanied by a tear in another of the four major knee ligaments, such as the MCL or medial collateral ligament, particularly when the injury is the result of a collision. An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) usually occurs as a result of a twisting or pivoting motion.
The symptoms of a torn ACL include:
Deciding to have surgery
The decision to have knee surgery will depend on the extent of damage to your ACL and whether it’s affecting your quality of life. If your knee doesn’t feel unstable and you don’t have an active lifestyle, you may decide not to have ACL surgery. However, when deciding whether to have surgery it’s important to be aware that a delay could cause further damage to your knee.
Reconstructive ACL surgery
A torn ACL can’t be repaired by stitching it back together. However, it can be reconstructed by grafting (attaching) new tissue onto it. The ACL can be reconstructed by removing what remains of the torn ligament and replacing it with a tendon from – for example, the hamstring or patellar tendon.
After having reconstructive ACL surgery, a few people may still experience knee pain or instability. Recovering from surgery usually takes around six months. However, it could be up to a year before you’re able to return to full training for your sport.
Injuries to the meniscus, the shock absorbing cartilage in the knee, are also common. For people who are athletic, these injuries can be quite debilitating. Although rare in children, young athletes may injure their meniscus. All knees have two menisci—the medial meniscus on the inside of the knee and the lateral meniscus on the outside of the knee. Meniscal tears usually result from a forceful injury and often accompany ligament tears such as ACL tears.
Surgery is usually required to repair such knee injuries. Fortunately, minimally invasive arthroscopic techniques are almost always used and athletes can be back in action in six to nine months in many cases. It is usually done in an outpatient setting, under general anesthesia, and the patient goes home the same day. Typically the operation is very successful. Patients usually return to their prior level of activity.