• By Deb Balzer

Mayo Clinic Minute: ACL tears — when surgery is the answer

July 22, 2021

ACL tears can sideline an athlete or crush an Olympic dream. It's a common knee injury affecting nearly twice as many women than men.

Dr. Cedric Ortiguera, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, says 150,000‒200,000 ACL injuries occur each year in the U.S., and that number is growing as more children become involved in competitive sports year-round. The good news is that surgery can help get some athletes get back in the game.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:06) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

The ACL is one of four main ligaments in your knee. It connects your femur to your tibia.

"You can tear your ACL a number of different ways, but typically, the most common way to tear it is from what we call a noncontact injury. You could be just simply running and trying to change direction or suddenly trying to slow down or stop," Dr. Ortiguera says.

Treatment depends on the person. Physical therapy and bracing might work well for a person not involved in high-demand sports or older people."

"If you’re younger and more active and you participate in sports like basketball, volleyball, football, then most likely you’re going to benefit from having surgery.”

The goal of surgery is to rebuild or reconstruct the ligament.

“Typically, in a younger athlete, we’re going to use a piece of tendon or ligament from their own body, which tends to heal faster and stronger. But in lower demand athletes, we occasionally take that tendon from a cadaver or someone that donates their tissue.”

Dr. Ortiguera says ACL reconstruction allows many athletes to get back on their feet and be active.

His advice to stay that way, "Stay in shape. Keep your weight down.”

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