Rebounding from ACL Injuries

Northwestern Medicine
Orthopaedics April 30, 2012

Knee X-RayChicago Bulls fans let out a collective gasp of shock this weekend as they watched their MVP fall on the court grasping his knee in pain during the team’s first playoff game. Hours later it was revealed that the injury was a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, one of the most common knee injuries for athletes. We know this is a season-ending injury, but what does an ACL tear mean for an athlete’s ability to perform in the long-term?

The ACL is a ligament in the center portion of the knee which connects the front top part of the shin bone to the back bottom part of the thigh bone and keeps the shin bone from sliding forward.  The ACL is commonly injured by a direct blow to the knee. However, more often ACL tears happen without contact. ACL Injuries can occur from sudden changes in direction while running or when the knee is hyperextended when an athlete lands from a jump; two common occurrences in basketball. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons*, an estimated 150,000 ACL injuries occur each year in the United States.

Michael Terry, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial who specializes in sports medicine, spoke with a number of media outlets over the weekend about what an ACL tear is, timeline for recovery and how this injury may impact an athlete’s future. Terry commented that any professional athlete has challenges when trying to come back from ACL reconstruction and basketball players do as much if not more than in other sports. The cutting, pivoting, and jumping that are hallmarks of the game makes an ACL tear a challenging injury to rehab for a basketball player.

“These surgeries take six months to come back from,” Terry explained to Comcast Sportsnet Chicago. “You have to learn to trust the knee again and you have to get it strong.”

For more perspective from Dr. Terry on ACL injuries, view the stories on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago and ABC-7*. 

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