There is an average of 250,000 ACL tears each year in the U.S. and football players contribute greatly to that statistic. Football is one of the most well known sports for having a high risk of ACL injuries, due both to strenuous impact over time and to the frequency of jumping, pivoting, and rapid change of direction.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located in the middle of the knee. It connects the thigh bone with the shin bone. In turn, this ligament helps stabilize the body and helps you change direction quickly.

Football-related ACL injuries can occur in many ways, such as landing from a jump onto a bent knee then twisting or landing on a knee that is overextended. ACL tears can also be caused by direct contact, such as getting hit hard on the side of the knee during a tackle.

Often upon an ACL tear, a ‘pop’ is heard and swelling develops quickly. Other times when the injury occurs without contact, typical symptoms include pain, immediate difficulty with walking and sensation of knee instability

Treatment for ACL injuries may involve one or more of the following: using a brace or crutches, having surgery or participating in an intense rehabilitation program. Depending on the severity of the injury, knee arthroscopy – as opposed to traditional open knee surgery – may also be used to reconstruct a torn ACL, and has a much faster recovery time.

Most likely, if the athlete wishes to remain active in football, the ACL tear will require surgery and rehabilitation. Many patients are allowed to return to sports within 7 to 9 months.

Reference: University of Connecticut Health Center, New England Musculoskeletal Institute; “Knee Conditions and Treatments” http://nemsi.uchc.edu/clinical_services/orthopaedic/knee/acl.html

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