Now that spring has finally arrived and everyone is coming out of hibernation, there are more opportunities for injuries. One injury most people are familiar with is the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL tear. The ACL is an important stabilizer of the knee. It is important not only in competitive sports, but in everyday activities. An ACL injury can affect your performance and even your ability to walk. Here at Cincinnati Children’s in the Radiology department, there are radiologists researching ways to improve recovery from this type of injury.
Everyone who is a sporting fan has watched a game as a player went down in a heap holding his knee, only to hear the news the next day that the injured player is out for the year due to a torn ACL. While this type of injury was once considered uncommon in pediatrics, ACL injuries are being much more frequently encountered both in young children and adolescents. This is thought to be due to earlier participation and intensity in athletics. Several techniques have also been developed to improve stability at the knee following an ACL tear so these young kids can return to their sport.
While nearly all patients will be able to return back to participation in sports after ACL reconstruction, some patients will develop arthritis earlier in their knees than others as a result of the previous injury. Research is currently underway at many institutions throughout the nation and world, including at Cincinnati Children’s. This research will help to determine if there are any predictors, either through advanced imaging with MRI or by evaluation of an individual persons biomechanics (which is the action or movement of the muscles, joints and skeleton during a task), that will indicate either an excellent recovery or a less optimal long term outcome following an ACL injury.
Through this research it is hoped that in the future, not only will young patients be able to return to their desired sporting activity at a high level, but will also be able to avoid problems with their injured knee in the future as they get older and have children of their own to watch and participate with in sports.
Contributed by Dr. Andrew M. Zbojniewicz and edited by Bessie Ganim (RT-Nuc Med).