If you're a football player, you know that injuries are a risk inherent to your sport. But did you know that you're particularly prone to knee injury? Knee tears aren't something to overlook -- if they're serious, they can take you out of the game for weeks or even months.
One of the most common knee injuries in football players is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. The anterior cruciate ligament is one of four main ligaments that stabilize the knee joint, and ACL injuries can range in severity from a second half spent on the sidelines to an entire season off the field.
At Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic, our team of orthopedic surgeons has years of experience treating sports-related injuries. We've helped countless athletes with ACL tears and other common knee injuries, and we're here to get you back on your feet and back in the game as quickly as possible.
Here are some important facts that every football player should know about ACL injuries:
What Is the ACL?
The anterior cruciate ligament is one of four main ligaments that keep the knee stable. There are two types of ligaments that make up this knee joint and allow your knee bones to glide smoothly over each other:
- Collateral ligaments: These ligaments are located on the sides of your knee, and they control the sideways movement of your knee joint. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is on the inside of your knee, while the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is on the outside.
- Cruciate ligaments: These ligaments cross each other in the middle of your knee joint. Cruciate ligaments control the forward and backward movement of your knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is in the front of your knee, while the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is in the back.
The ACL is one of the most important ligaments in the knee joint. It helps to stabilize the knee and prevents the tibia (shinbone) from sliding too far forward.
What Are Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries?
Anterior cruciate ligament injuries are tears or sprains in the ACL. This type of knee ligament injury can range from mild to severe, and they can occur during both contact and non-contact activities.
Unlike a collateral ligament injury, which affects the sides of your knee and happens if something knocks your knee sideways, an ACL injury affects the front and back of your knee. The soft tissues in your knee joint, including the ACL, can be stretched or torn when your knee is twisted or hyperextended beyond its normal range of motion.
What Causes ACL Tears?
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament occur most commonly in contact sports, such as football and rugby. However, ligament tears can also occur in non-contact sports, such as basketball, tennis, and volleyball, as well as other traumatic incidents such as a car accident.
There are a few common mechanisms of ACL injury:
- Direct contact: This type of injury occurs when another player hits you directly, causing you to twist or hyperextend your knee outwards. This is the cause of many knee injuries.
- Pivoting: This type of injury often occurs when you make a sudden change in direction while your foot is planted on the ground. As your body weight shifts, the knee joint can be twisted beyond its normal range of motion, causing the ACL to tear.
- Landing awkwardly: This type of injury can occur when you land on a bent knee from a jump, causing your knee to twist or bend beyond its normal range.
What Are Some Common ACL Tear Symptoms?
When the ACL is torn, you might feel a sudden pop or snap in your knee. This is often followed by severe pain and swelling. You might also have difficulty walking or bearing weight on your leg.
In some cases, the knee joint may feel unstable or “give way” when you try to put weight on it. This can be especially concerning for athletes who rely on their knees for jumping and cutting movements.
If you're experiencing knee pain along with any of these symptoms, it's important to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. An ACL tear is a serious injury that often requires surgery to repair.
Why Are Football Players At Risk?
Football players are at an increased risk for ACL tears and other knee injuries for a few reasons:
- The nature of the sport: Football is a high-impact, contact sport that puts a lot of stress on the knees. Players are constantly changing direction and jumping, which can put them at risk for ACL tears.
- The size and speed of players: The bigger and faster a player is, the greater the force that can be exerted on their knees. This can put them at risk for more serious injuries, including ACL tears.
- The surface: Playing on artificial turf or a hard surface can increase the stress on the knee joints and lead to ACL tears.
ACL Injury Treatment for Athletes
If you're an athlete who has suffered an ACL tear, it's important to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries often require surgery to repair the damaged ligament.
For immediate relief from pain, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend a combination of rest, ice, and compression to the injury site. You might also be prescribed pain medication or anti-inflammatory drugs.
After the initial period of swelling has subsided, your surgeon will likely recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength and range of motion in your knee. Recovery from ACL surgery can take several months. During this time, it's important to follow your surgeon's instructions and avoid any activities that could put undue stress on your knee.
Visit the Top Orthopedic Doctor in Marrero, LA
If you're playing football this season, it's important to remember that an ACL tear has the potential to take you off the field, especially if you try to keep playing with an injured knee. If you think you might have injured your ACL, the best thing you can do is see a sports injury doctor as soon as possible.
At Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic, our team of experienced orthopedic surgeons is dedicated to providing the highest quality care for athletes of all levels. We offer a full range of treatment options for ACL injuries, including surgery, physical therapy, and rehabilitation focused on getting you back in the game.
If you're ready to receive care from the best knee specialist near you, don't wait. Schedule your first appointment at Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic today.