What Every Athlete Should Know About Their ACL

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are an unfortunate reality for athletes of all levels in the United States. Some studies estimate annual ACL tears at between 100,000-200,000, mostly among athletes who do a lot of sprinting, pivoting, or jumping. 

With practices in Sugar Land and Houston, Texas, J. Michael Bennett, MD, uses the most advanced treatment options for athletes with ACL tears, including minimally-invasive arthroscopic options for faster recovery. If you’re not sure how ACL tears occur or how to prevent them, here’s what you should know.

The role of the ACL

Your ACL is one of four major ligaments that help your knee stay stable and functional. All four ligaments connect your thigh bone to the lower leg bones. 

The ACL and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) are located in the center of the knee joint, joining the thigh bone to the tibia bone. The anterior cruciate ligament is attached near the front of your thigh bone, while the posterior cruciate ligament is attached near the back part of the bone. These two ligaments cross (“cruciate” literally means cross-shaped) in the middle of the knee.

Together, your ACL and PCL promote normal bending and straightening of your knee, providing it with stability that helps the joint function normally during all sorts of activities. The other two ligaments, the medial collateral ligament, and the lateral collateral ligament, are located on the knees’ sides, providing additional stability.

Why ACL tears occur

ACL tears are one of the most common types of knee injuries, especially for athletes. That’s because many sports require quick start-stop actions, pivoting movements, and high-impact motions that put a lot of strain on that specific ligament. Less often, the ligament can be torn from a fall or other impact. ACL injuries are especially common among athletes who play baseball, football, basketball, and soccer.

An ACL tear can be partial or complete, depending on whether the tear completely severs the ligament. If a ligament is stretched and not torn, it’s referred to as a sprain. While you may not be able to avoid an ACL entirely, you can help prevent them with:

The risk of ACL tears becomes more common with age and repetitive use. Working with a sports medicine specialist may help prevent injuries by making sure your knees stay healthy.

Treating ACL tears

A torn ACL can’t heal on its own. For older patients or patients who intend to lead a relatively inactive lifestyle, nonsurgical options, like bracing and physical therapy might be recommended instead of surgery. But for active athletes, rebuilding the ligament is the better option.

To rebuild your ACL, Dr. Bennett uses a graft — usually a tendon taken from another part of your leg. The graft is attached to your knee bones, and the damaged ACL is removed entirely. After surgery, you’ll have therapy to restore motion, strength, and flexibility in the joint.

Stay off the sidelines

You might not be able to avoid every sports injury, but working closely with a sports doctor can help you stay healthy and enjoy your sport more. As a top-ranked sports medicine specialist in the greater Houston area, Dr. Bennett can customize a wellness program just for you. To learn more about the sports medicine options he offers, call the practice or use the online form to schedule an appointment today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Tips for Avoiding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a major cause of wrist pain, especially among people who use their hands and wrists a lot. The good news is, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce your risks of CTS. Here are eight to get you started.

What is PRP and How Can It Benefit You?

Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, offers plenty of benefits for people with sports injuries, joint damage, and other musculoskeletal problems. Here’s the scoop on this innovative and effective treatment, including how it’s “made” and what it treats.

The Link Between Your Diet and Arthritis

You are what you eat — and so are your joints. If you have arthritis, choosing the right foods — and avoiding the wrong ones — might help relieve pain and stiffness while also preventing future joint damage. Read on to learn more.

Treatment For Your Elbow Injury

You use your elbows a lot, which means even a minor injury can take a significant toll on your life. Fortunately, today there are lots of options for treating elbow injuries, including nonsurgical options. If you have elbow pain, read on.

How PRP Can Help Your Sports Injuries

If you’re an athlete, you likely know all about strains, sprains, muscle tears, and other sports injuries. Learn how our team can use your own blood to help you heal with PRP therapy.