The Dreaded ACL: Your Surgical Considerations

For those of you who follow sport, it would be fair to say that the ACL is one of the most common, and dreaded, forms of injury.

It’s one that has ended some careers and put others on hold for a number of years. Umpteen famous athletes have suffered this injury and while their sporting career is subsequently cast under the microscope, the repercussions are just as painful for the Average Joe.

Unlike high-profile athletes, surgery for a typical person isn’t always a foregone conclusion. Of course, there are financial questions and if you’re opting for the private route, making sure that your surgeon has the relevant medical indemnity insurance should be part of this.

However, there are other concerns which blight this topic, which we will now mull over through the course of today’s post.

How old are you?

First and foremost, doctors will assess the age of the patient. This doesn’t mean to say that age will dictate the next course of action – there are plenty of other variables that come into play.

However, while age might be a so-called minor consideration in most cases, when it comes to children this isn’t the case. This is because more risks enter the picture following surgery, with growth plate injuries (and subsequent growth problems) being the main concern.

This doesn’t mean to say that ACL surgery is always discounted when focused around children. However, surgeons may sometimes adapt the surgery to minimize the risk of growth plate problems, or even wait until the child’s body has matured.

How truly active are you?

Many people class themselves in the ‘active’ category, although in reality they are far from this.

When deciding on ACL surgery, this is something that needs to be answered with the upmost honesty. Anyone who regularly participates in sport, at a relatively high level, can be defined as such, but it doesn’t just come down to sport. For example, if a job requires regular pivoting, this is another reason to suggest that a damaged ACL is going to blight a day-to-day job to such a level that surgery is almost definitely required.

Of course, if we return to the example of professional athletes, time is clearly of the essence and a speedy recovery means that surgeons will almost always opt for a form of surgery.

Are there any other injuries?

The nature of the ‘classic ACL injury’ is that it is seldom just that. Due to the range of movements that occur when this injury develops, other parts around the knee are often affected. For example, the menisci and joint capsules will also incur damage, and this can worsen the situation significantly.

It’s here where surgery is almost always considered. While individual circumstances sometimes dictate that this isn’t the final outcome, most of the time combined injuries require some form of surgery. In the case of a torn meniscus, these tend to heal much better if operated at the same time as ACL reconstruction.