Sports Injuries Strike Again

Knee ligament injuries are more likely to occur in athletes who have had them before

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Sports are a great way for kids to get exercise and have fun. But sometimes young athletes get hurt.

Many sports injuries are mild and heal on their own. Others — such as knee ligament tears — may be more serious and require surgery.

Athletes who have had surgery to repair knee ligament tears are more likely to experience another knee ligament tear than uninjured athletes, according to a recent study.

"Ask your doctor how to prevent sports-related injuries."

This study was conducted by Mark V. Paterno, PhD, PT, ATC, from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and colleagues from other institutions in the US.

The aim of this study was to find out if anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears were more common in patients in the two years after ligament reconstruction surgery as compared to those without previous injuries.

The ACL is an important band of tissue that provides support to the knee. Tears of this ligament usually occur when swift, abrupt movements are performed while playing sports such as football and basketball.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the ligament tear may require surgery.

In this study, the researchers looked at data from 78 participants (59 female, 19 male) between 10 and 25 years of age. All the study group participants had undergone ACL repair surgery.

This study also included a comparison group with 47 individuals who had never had an ACL tear before.

All the participants were followed for 24 months after surgery and monitored for sports-related injuries.

Injuries of the ACL occurred in 23 participants in the surgery group and only 4 participants in the comparison group.

The overall rate of injuries was six times higher in the surgery group than the comparison group.  

Within the study group, 20.5 percent of participants had a re-injury in the opposite knee while 9 percent had tears of the same ligament that had been operated on. 

Females who had undergone knee surgery were twice as likely as males to suffer an injury on the opposite knee during the study period.

"This data highlights the fact that ACL tear patients who return to playing sports are at greater risk for injury and should take appropriate precautions to prevent injury," said Dr. Paterno in a press statement.

"Our study represents the first report of subsequent ACL injury incidence rate focused on 2-year outcomes of young, active patients returning to sport," Dr. Paterno said.

"Even though additional research still needs to be performed to support our findings, our data does provide early evidence for re-examining current rehabilitation and return to sport protocols following [ACL repair surgery]," he said.

According to Daniel Clearfield, DO, MS, CAQSM, assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and practicing sports medicine physician, "The biggest risk factor for incurring any type of athletic injury is having a previous injury to that area of the body. Therefore, the results of this study are not surprising."

"More and more organizations and schools are working on ACL prevention programs to avoid the initial ACL insult. Proper warming up, strengthening, stretching, and stabilization exercises are used to prevent the likelihood of ACL injury in athletes," said Dr. Clearfield.

"Considering the results of this study, ACL injury prevention programs need to be further studied and implemented to avoid this potentially career ending injury," he said.

The results of this study were presented on July 11 at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's (AOSSM) Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL. All findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No funding information or disclosures were made available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 12, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013