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Medical Watch: ACL tears in woman

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In tonight’s medical watch, it’s been a perfect winter for skiers. But along with the mountains of snow comes an increase in knee injuries, especially among women.

I think that with ACL making headlines with the more and more famous athletes the Lindsey Vaughns, the Adrian Petersons, the Derek Roses that it gets a lot of attention.

And then there are the rest of us.

In years past we’ve seen a dramatic increase in ACL injuries because people are more active.  The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, stretches across the knee at an angle and controls the degree of rotation in the joint.  And it’s one of the four major ligaments, which are sort of like strong ropes, which tether the two bones together, the femur and the tibia.  It’s subjected to tremendous stresses

 And when it’s stretched too far, it tears.  Repairing the torn ligament requires surgery.  The ACL does not have an intrinsic ability to heal itself.  The rush you get going down the hill, learning new skills, learning how to make the turns, and just how beautiful winter can be.

Robin Tillmon first hit the slopes more than 20 years ago. So on a trip to Colorado last winter, the experienced skier tested her skills on an intermediate run.  “My ski caught an edge, I fell, the ski twisted, and it didn’t pop off. And I just felt this severe pain in my knee.”  he returned to Chicago and called orthopedic surgeon Brian Forsythe.

 And said to come in, ‘you’re actually the sixth to eighth we’ve had call from Colorado this week’.  So it’s fairly common.   Skiing in particular is one of those high demand activities where there’s tremendous stresses placed across the knee joint.   Women, in particular are at greater risk. The reason?  Body mechanics.

 Women have an alignment a wider pelvis and a more narrow thermal notch, which sort of predisposes them bio-mechanically to injury.  They tend to jump and land a little differently than men do, with their knees in a more straightened position which in and of itself is a risk factor for an ACL injury.  Robin underwent reconstructive surgery in April 2013 and completed six months of rehab. By January of this year, she was ready to ski again.

My friends were like, “You’re going to ski again after you tore your ACL?  “Why do you want to do that?!” And I was like, “That’s why I had the surgery, so that I could get back to doing things that I love.”

My advice is to condition. There are pyrometric exercises you can do, do jump training and work on bio-mechanics which can lessen your susceptibility to injury.

The hard part is keeping up with it and doing it on a consistent basis.   ACL injuries are on the rise in children as well, one survey found a 400 percent increase during the past decade. But for all age groups, Dr. Forsythe says strength training is the best way to help prevent tears.

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