Olympic Skier's Knee Injury Common – How to Avoid or Come Back from ACL Tear

January 13, 2014

CLINTON TOWNSHIP – Downhill skier Lindsay Vonn’s aspirations to once again claim gold at the upcoming Sochi Olympics turned to disappointment as she announced a prior ACL injury was not completely healed and would prevent her from competing.

A torn ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a common sports injury – particularly for women. The ACL runs through the knee and allows for front to back movement. When injured, the knee becomes unstable and any sort of strenuous activity becomes difficult and dangerous, notes Henry Ford Macomb orthopedic surgeon Vinay Pampati, DO

An ACL tear and subsequent surgery can put patients on the sidelines anywhere from nine months to a year, notes Pampati, who specializes in sports medicine. Women’s anatomy makes them more at risk for this type of injury. However, there are ways men and women can avoid trouble and stay in the game.

“Proper conditioning prevents injury, including an ACL tear,” he said. “Many people think they are in shape, but they really aren’t in good condition. You really need a quality conditioning program that focuses on all areas of the body from your calves and thighs through your core. Combining a good program of flexibility and strength training in addition to cardio is the way to go. Keeping yourself strong is going to enable your musculoskeletal system to take the bumps and tweaks that come with playing sports or other high impact activities.”

ACL injuries normally happen after an awkward twist or hit. Most people can tell right away if an injury does occur. There may be a popping sound, followed by fairly severe swelling of the knee. Patients may not be able bear weight on the knee or may feel it giving way.

Surgery to reconstruct the ACL usually follows. The recovery can be long – from six to nine months – as the body heals and the new ligament fuses into place. Dr. Pampati said the key to recovery is adhering to the physical therapy regime prescribed by your surgeon – even if the knee feels fine.

“The vast majority of patients come back from this injury with no trouble,” says Dr. Pampati. “It just takes time and patience to stick with the therapy and not rush things too much.”