It seems that every week, a famous athlete suffers an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Professional athletes are not alone; we do 200,000 ACL reconstructions a year in the U.S. and the numbers are growing.
The ACL is located in the center of the knee and provides stability during athletic situations as well as during everyday life. The ligament is tragically vulnerable and can tear as a result of a collision, or as a result of a non-contact event, such as cutting or pivoting. Often an athlete will tear his or her ACL just by landing awkwardly, without even being touched!
We have come a long way in ACL surgery but there is still room for improvement. I am a member of the international ACL Study Group; at our last meeting, it was reported that return to play after ACL reconstruction in competitive high school and college football is 64%. At the professional level, 60-80% of football and basketball players return to professional sports after the surgery. These are good results, but I feel we can do even better.
At HSS, we do more ACL reconstructions that any other institution in the U.S. I have extensively published on how different ACL techniques impact knee stability; many of these studies have helped us refine our techniques and improve patient outcomes. With more modern techniques, we expect our results to be even better as we continue to treat the ACL injury epidemic.