Not all skiers with ACL injuries need surgery

February 11, 2013

Topic: orthopaedic research

Ski star Vonn suffers second knee injury, faces longer recovery

Skiers are at risk for tearing their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs ). However, new orthopaedic research published in the journal Knee Surgery Sports Traumatology Arthroscopy suggests that around 25 percent of affected patients may not need to undergo reconstructive surgery and can instead just rehabilitate the knee with physical therapy.

Out of the 200,000 ACL partial or complete tears that occur every year, around 100,000 of the injured individuals schedule surgery to repair the damaged ligament, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It is typically recommended when other parts of the knee are affected, like the meniscus and articular cartilage.

Robert Marx, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon and lead author of the study, looked through the records of 63 recreational skiers who tore their ACLs between 2003 and 2008 and were treated within six weeks of their injuries. He specifically took note of 29 subjects who did not undergo reconstructive surgery and observed whether their ailment healed completely.

"Some patients who tear their ACL while skiing can get away without surgery. Their ligament heals by itself, they will have stable knees, and they will be able to do whatever they want, including skiing," concluded Marx. "It is a huge deal to avoid surgery."

ACL injuries are common sports injuries among skiers because the activity often requires the legs to twist and pivot, reported The Huffington Post. If the incident does occur, the individual may not be able to return to skiing in the same capacity that he or she did before the tear. Those who do hit the slopes again after recovery should take the proper injury prevention measures to avoid re-injuring the ligament. 

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