ACL Surgery May Not Shorten WNBA Career

Chicago Tribune—February 13, 2015

A common knee surgery that can sideline athletes for months does not ultimately affect the career length of women invited to the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), according to a new study.

"With appropriate rehabilitation, ACL injuries do not mean an early end to an otherwise promising athletic career," said lead author Dr. Moira McCarthy, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

McCarthy told Reuters Health she was surprised and impressed by just how many women enter the WNBA with a history of knee injury or surgery.

In particular, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which runs through the knee joint and connects the thigh and shin bones, can be damaged during running or pivoting. Women are at higher risk for ACL injuries than men, and that gender divide widens in intense sports like basketball and soccer.

To see whether female athletes with repaired knees suffer long-term career consequences, McCarthy and her colleagues looked at a healthcare database for 500 players entering the WNBA combine, an invitation-only precursor to the draft, from 2000 to 2008.

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