New study sheds light on bilateral ACL injuries

December 16, 2013


New study sheds light on bilateral ACL injuries

One of the most common sports injuries is a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament, which connects the knee to the thigh and shin bones. Many athletes who sustain ACL injuries must undergo reconstructive surgery to repair the damaged ligament. While the injury is no longer an automatic career-ender for competitive athletes due to advancements in medical technology, it can still result in complications further down the road, especially in the case of bilateral injuries, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that those who have either bilateral or contralateral ACL injuries after initial reconstructive surgery are more likely to experience lower function and activity in the knee than those who had surgery for unilateral injuries.

"[The patients'] activities had changed, and they were dissatisfied with their current activity level," said study author Anne Fältström. "They had a high activity level before their first and second ACL injuries but an impaired activity level after their contralateral injury at follow-up."

The researchers also found that patients with bilateral ACL injuries had an overall lower quality of life, especially in relation to sports activities. 

Although athletes may feel the need to return to practice after their initial ACL reconstruction, they might be more prone to sustaining another tear to their knee ligaments. According to a study published in Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Technology in 2012, 70 percent of patients with contralateral ACL injuries damaged their ligaments in situations similar to their initial injuries. The researchers noted that the risk factors for harming the knee ligament after reconstructive surgery were the age at the first ACL injury and the return to competitive sports. Those who sustained an ACL injury at a young age had a much higher risk of incurring a second or third tear. However, the doctors did not find that knee laxity or muscle strength played a role. 

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