ACL Injuries in Athletes Essay

This essay has a total of 1660 words and 7 pages.

ACL Injuries in Athletes



ACL Injuries in Athletes

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) attaches the femur, which is the thighbone, and the
tibia, which is the shin, together (northstar). A torn ACL is one of the most
excruciating experiences in an athlete’s life. It is the first thing that comes to mind
when they hurt their knee on the field; for many it is their greatest fear. A torn ACL can
sometimes mean the end of an athlete’s career. It can mean losing the chance to get that
scholarship for young athletes, and it can also mean the end of those million dollar
paychecks for those who have gone professional. A torn ACL can result in numerous
surgeries, months of vigorous exercise and rehabilitation, and a sufficient amount of
pain. It requires complete patience, for pushing too hard can result in further, more
painful injury. Even after all that, an athlete is not guaranteed he or she will ever be
able to play sports again.

The anterior cruciate ligament is the reason that the knee only has one pattern of
movement. Instead of moving sideways and up and down, the knee only serves as a pivot for
flexion (bending) and extension (straightening); it holds the tibia and femur in place
(northstar). In the northstar web page it is stated that, “The anterior cruciate ligament
is one of the most important ligaments to athletes because of its main function,
stabilization of the joint while decelerating.” In other words, it is the reason that we
can stop abruptly without our leg collapsing. Obviously this asset makes it an essential
to have a functioning ACL while playing sports. It is an especially common injury in
soccer, which is a game of constant abrupt stops. Not only is soccer a danger to the ACL
because of its constant stops and starts, it is also a game of jumps, falls, and
slide-tackles, which put a continuous stress on the ACL for the entire 90 minutes of the
game. ACL tears are also more common in women. It is said that the reason for this is
because women’s bodies were not meant for playing intense sports, and are therefore more
likely to endure such injuries. The ACL is the most frequently injured part of the knee
when related to sports. As fore-mentioned, the ACL aids us in abrupt stops; it are these
abrupt stops that are the most common cause for its injury. ( Figure 1. shows the
difference between a normal ACL and a torn one.)

An ACL injury has not been scientifically proven to be linked to weight, size, or strength
(Duff 308). The cause can be a violent twist of the knee, or it can simply be caused by
standing up too fast. It can be twisted or hyper extended. In any case, if it is concluded
that the ACL has been ruptured, the symptoms and treatment remain the same. In any injury
tiny, or large, blood vessels are broken, resulting in bleeding into the area of the
injury. This is the cause of swelling. In an ACL tear, the knee swells almost immediately
because of the broken blood vessels in the ligament ( Sechrest.com). The initial tear
makes a loud “pop” and, because of the absence of the ligament’s reinforcement, there is a
feeling of instability in the knee. In some cases, the knee actually subluxes, which is a
dislocation that pops back into place on its own. In these cases, there is usually more
injured than just the ACL. Often the MCL (medial collateral ligament) is also injured
(Sechrest.com). Other common symptoms, according to the northstar website are pain and the
athlete falling to the ground as a result of the instability, or buckling, of the knee.

A torn ACL can only truly be determined through a series of tests starting with a physical
examination, as in the Lachman’s and Anterior Drawer tests. In the Lachman’s test (shown
in Fig. 2.), “[the] Patient with suspected injury lies supine on examination table and
flexes the knee at 15 degrees. The person examining the patient stands on the affected
side of the extremity and holds the patient’s femur (thigh) immobile with one hand. The
other hand is placed on the tibia (shin) and tries to move it forward, without rotation.
The movement of this knee is then compared to the normal knee” (northstar). The physical
examination is also given using the Anterior Drawer test (Fig. 3.). In this test, the
“Patient’s knee is placed at 80-90 degrees flexion. The examiner repeats [the] process of
Lachman’s test except that he or someone helping him sits on the patient’s feet to
stabilize it and gently pulls the tibia forward with both hands” (northstar).
Unfortunately, sometimes there is too much swelling in the knee to get accurate results
from these tests. The athlete then has the fluid drained from his/her knee, and if this
fluid has blood in it, the sechrest site notes that there is a 70% chance that the ACl has
been torn. X-rays can then be done to rule out the possibility of fractures or chipping of
the knee joint, which can also cause blood in the joint. If there is still doubt, an MRI
can be done. MRI is an abbreviation for magnetic reconnaissance image. An MRI allows
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