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ACL Injuries in Athletes

We are all saddened by the recent injury of our beloved Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, Joe Burrow, and wish him a speedy and full recovery.  Unfortunately ACL injuries with or without damage to other structures in the knee can be devastating for athletes of all ages.

In this blog, the physicians at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine<> explain more about ACL injuries, preventing them, and returning to the sports you love.

What is the ACL?

The ACL is one of the major ligaments that stabilizes the knee. It connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). Once it tears it unfortunately does not heal on its own and can result in episodes of instability or giving way. For athletes this means the knee gives out as they try to pivot or quickly change direction. Other structures can also be damaged along with an ACL injury including other ligaments that also helps stabilize the knee, meniscus, or articular cartilage.

Why is ACL reconstruction necessary?

ACL reconstruction is necessary because the ACL does not heal on its own. Without it the femur and tibia bone can experience shifting on one another which can cause further damage to the joint surface and other structures such as the meniscus. Damage to the articular cartilage and meniscus can result in developing early arthritis.

What does ACL surgery involve?

Techniques have advanced significantly over the last 10 years however ACL reconstruction remains a major surgery with an extensive recovery. The surgery itself involves taking tissue from another part of your body (patella tendon, hamstring, or quad) and recreating your ACL through tunnels drilled in the femur and tibia. A screw or button is used to fix the new ACL in place. During surgery damage to cartilage, meniscus or other ligaments is addressed as well. Wellington physicians are highly trained in sports injuries, many of our physicians have done extra training to work specifically with athletes and return them to high level athletics.

What is involved with recovery from ACL surgery?

Recovery actually begins even before surgery and it takes on average 9 months to a year before athletes can safely resume sports. Physical therapy protocols are also dictated by the other structures damaged at time of injury and/or repaired at time of surgery. Full clearance is athlete specific and requires individualized therapy focused on your needs and functional demands. Wellington offers a GAP program after physical therapy to ensure athletes are ready to return and compete at their highest level.

Can ACL tears be prevented?

Traumatic contact injuries such as Joe Burrow's unfortunately often can not be prevented. However the majority of ACL injuries occur with no contact and often can be prevented with proper strengthening and landing techniques. There are simple home exercises you can learn and programs such as GAP available through Wellington that can help decrease you or your child's risk of injury. Strengthening your hamstrings (back leg muscles), core and hip muscles, as well as learning to land softly with bent knees and hips are just a few of the ways to prevent injury.


 *   ACL tear is a major injury which often requires surgery for athletes looking to return to sports.

 *   Having a surgeon who specializes in sports injuries of the knee can be beneficial for both surgery and recovery.

 *   Utilizing dedicated physical therapists and a return to play program, such as GAP helps safely return athletes to the sports they love.

If you have specific questions about a knee injury and your ability to return to sports, or if you would like to schedule with one of our sports fellowship trained specialists, book an appointment<> with Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine today at 513-232-2663.

Dr. Amelia Wiggins Dr, Amelia J. Wiggins, DO, is a board-certified fellowship-trained sports medicine, an orthopaedic surgeon. She is part of the team of specialists at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine, practicing in the Anderson and Eastgate Cincinnati offices as well as the clinic in Sardinia, Ohio. With nearly a decade of experience, Dr. Wiggins has extensive experience in the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of sports medicine injuries. She specializes in knee & shoulder arthroscopy with interest in ACL injuries, patella instability, cartilage restoration, and shoulder instability.

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