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ACL Injuries: Not Just Affecting Professional Athletes Anymore

Dr. Andrew Pearle of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Andrew Pearle of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

STAMFORD, Conn. -- It seems that every week, a famous athlete suffers an anterior cruciate ligament -- or ACL -- tear. Most recently, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tore his knee ligament, sidelining him for the entire season.

Professional athletes are not alone; 200,000 ACL reconstructions are performed each year in the U.S. and the numbers are growing.

The ACL is located in the center of the knee and provides stability during athletic situations as well as during everyday life. The ligament is tragically vulnerable and can tear as a result of a collision or from a non-contact event, such as cutting or pivoting. Often an athlete will tear his or her ACL just by landing awkwardly, without even being touched.

We've come a long way in ACL surgery but there is still room for improvement. It has been reported that return to play after ACL reconstruction in competitive high school and college football is 64 percent. At the professional level, 60-80 percent of football and basketball players return to professional sports after the surgery. These are good results, but we can do even better.

At HSS, we do more ACL reconstructions than any other institution in the country. I've published extensively on how different ACL techniques impact knee stability and many of these studies have helped us refine our techniques and improve patient outcomes. With more modern techniques, we expect our results to be even better as we continue to treat the ACL injury epidemic.

Dr. Andrew Pearle is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and robotic surgery. Dr. Pearle’s clinical interests include arthroscopic and robotic surgery of the shoulder, knee and ankle. He is a team physician for the New York Mets and coordinates care for the minor league affiliates including the Brooklyn Cyclones. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford, CT and the hospital’s main campus in New York.

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