The World Champion ACL Recovery Team

The World Champion ACL Recovery Team

 

Members of the U.S. Women’s National Team:   Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Brandi Chastain, Ali Krieger, Aly Wagner, Christie Rampone, Rachel Buehler, Shannon MacMillan, Heather Mitts.

What do these athletes have in common?

Apart from being current or former members of the U.S. Women’s National soccer team, they have all suffered ACL injuries.

7-5-15-USA-vs-JPN-Trophy-Celeb-ISI-Photos ACL Recovery Team

Optimum function of the knee is important in most sports.  One of the most common season

ending injuries is a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).  There are two cruciate ligaments that

crisscross the knee joint.  The ACL (in front) and the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (in back).  The

ACL is injured much more commonly than the PCL.  The ACL is one of the major stabilizing

ligaments of the knee.  It keeps the knee joint stable during activities that require quick changes in

directions like soccer, tennis and basketball.  In ACL injuries,  surgical treatment is critical to any

athlete hoping to continue participation in sports that require a high demand on the knee.

 

These non-contact ACL tears afflict female athletes much more frequently than men. A 13-year study of ACL injuries in NCAA men’s and women’s soccer found that the rate of ACL tears for female soccer players is about three times higher than it is for males. Studies of other ages and sports show similar trends. Female athletes have anywhere from 2 to 8 times the risk of tearing their ACLs in sports.

 

Many factors have been proposed to explain this large discrepancy. Female athletes differ anatomically, having smaller ACLs and smaller notches in the knee where the ACL resides. They also have a more knock-kneed alignment at the knee. Hormones might play a role as well, as some research suggests that taking oral contraceptives might decrease the risk of a female athlete tearing her ACL.

 

The most important factor, though, might be biomechanical and neuromuscular differences. Female athletes tend to have different landing and cutting mechanics and different muscle firing patterns, which alter the forces at the hip and knee. These differences are important because we might be able to correct them.

 

The PEP (Prevent injury and Enhance Performance) Program, the FIFA 11, and other exercise programs aim to teach female athletes how to land and turn properly and build appropriate muscle strength to control forces at the knee. Players perform the exercises for 10-15 minutes as part of their warm-ups several times per week.

 

Some studies have shown tremendous success in decreasing the rates of ACL tears. The first study of the PEP Program implemented in the Coast Soccer League in Southern California showed an 88 percent decrease in the first year of the program and 74 percent decrease in the second for athletes who performed the PEP Program compared to players who didn’t. Other studies have shown a trend for lower risk but no statistically significant difference.

If you are a female high school or college soccer player, though, it makes sense to at least try such a program. At worst, you suffer the injury anyway despite doing the warm-up drills regularly. On the other hand, you might avoid collapsing on the field, requiring surgery and 5-6 months or more of rehab.

 

Of course, surgery to reconstruct the ACL can help an athlete return to sports after this injury. Success rates for ACL reconstruction are excellent, but return to play is never guaranteed. Sure, many of the players on that list did return, and many of them won a World Cup.  As the old saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Congradulation to all the athletes in this years World Cup.

 

Dr Andrew Scott Martin

5546 S Fort Apache Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89148