Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament

Footballers tend to sustain more injuries than other sportsmen and women, although most of them aren't serious injuries. Two thirds of injuries on the football pitch are sustained through bad collisions with opponents and from sudden awkward movements, overstretching muscles or landing badly from a jump. Older or female players are more prone to injury than younger male players.

What Causes a Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 1 of the 4 ligaments in the knee and its job is to secure the stability of the knee. It can be torn after a sudden change in direction, from twisting sharply, or when the bent knee is forced in the opposite direction of its natural motion. Most ACL injuries don't occur from colliding with opponents. If the ACL is torn, the player may feel a click in their knee, followed by pain. There will be swelling and the knee will feel unstable. Many footballers suffer from this injury because they often have to change direction quickly, twisting and turning rapidly to keep up with the frenetic pace of the game. Female players seem to be more susceptible to an ACL injury, although research has yet to determine why this is.

Prevention of Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligaments

Warming up and cooling down properly is crucial in helping to prevent any kind of injury. Strength and endurance exercises particularly focusing on balance, power and agility will also help to reduce the risk of suffering from a torn ACL.

Treatment for Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligaments

Immediately following the injury, players should rest their knee, apply ice wrapped in a cloth to the affected area to reduce swelling, wear compression bandages and keep it elevated above heart level as much as possible (the RICE technique). A doctor should examine the knee as soon as possible to determine whether or not surgery is necessary. Even if surgery is not required, the injured player should still follow a 3 month rehabilitation plan to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee.

Surgery for Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament

If surgery is required, the surgeon will construct the new ligament using either two of the hamstring tendons or the patella tendon, which will be placed in the knee joint in the same shape as the original ligament. The patient should be able to walk the day after surgery, possibly with the help of a hinged splint. As part of the recovery process, the player will then commence the 3 month rehabilitation programme and will only be able to return to playing competitive football after 6 months at the earliest.

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