Health Team

ACL Injuries = Surgery, Long Recovery

Posted January 10, 2008

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— ACL injuries have ended seasons and careers of many athletes. When the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is torn, it can mean surgery and a long recovery.

N.C. State starting guard Farnold Degand's season ended Dec. 23, and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Bobby Frasor stopped playing four days later. Both suffered the same knee injury, a torn ACL.

“This ligament keeps the tibia, the shin bone, from coming forward and helps control rotation,” said Dr. Tim Taft, a UNC orthopaedic surgeon who is treating Frasor.

UNC intramural soccer player Anne Immediata tore her ACL in November and plans to have surgery. Taft says an ACL tear is simple to diagnose.

“We move it back and forth, and you can see this jump. That jump cannot occur unless the ACL has been torn,” he said.

It's not typically caused by contact, but from sudden deceleration and then rotating the knee, Taft said. Female athletes are more vulnerable to the injury than men.

“I've been taking care of the UNC varsity athletic teams for about 30 years now, and we've just had our third ACL injury on the men's team. During that same time we've had 10 to 12 on the women's team,” Taft said.

An ACL injury means at least six to 12 months of recovery.

“Most athletes who've had their ACL reconstructed will say that they really aren't fully back until the second or sometimes the third year after their surgery,” Taft said.

Surgeons do the ACL reconstruction arthroscopically to minimize tissue damage.

For UNC athletes, Taft uses a piece of the patellar tendon with bone from the knee cap on one end and bone from the tibia on the other. They anchor those bone plugs down in the same area where the original ligament was.

With good muscle rehab before and after surgery, the technique seems to speed up full recovery, he said.


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  • tgw Jan 11, 2008

    Ignore the ignorent!!!

    Athletics at these schools puts alot of money in the bank for the schools. A friend was Prof. in Engineering at NCSU years ago-said contributions skyrocketed after State won the national championship in 1983.

    These athletes are blessed to have such good MDs as Dr. Taft.
    State and UNC have both lost guards to ACL tears this season. Hope they recover well!!!

  • whatelseisnew Jan 11, 2008


    Gee I had not thought of those kinds of activities. Okay, from now on none of us can engage in any activity that has the potential to injure us, including working. We should all remain indoors and protect ourselves from bruises by wrapping our bodies in bubble wrap. And yes some of you figured it right, I am just playing. These ACL injuries are nasty. It is very unfortunate when it happens to someone. A friend at work had it happen to one of his daughters playing soccer. It was a real shame, because she was good enough that she had full scholarship offers from some very good universities prior to her injury.

  • ThinkDeep Jan 11, 2008

    Some of this comments are absolutely rediculous - let me see ...
    maybe I should just stay in bed so I don't rupture a disc getting out of bed therefore creating an increase in healthcare -duh!!

  • jannita Jan 11, 2008

    And just as you can exercise without engaging in contact sports, you can tear your ACL without doing either! I tore mine falling out of an inner tube being pulled behind a boat on a lake-a widely accepted marine recreational activity. But when you hit the water, it is like concrete. My knee blew in-ACL gone! Excessive worry over healthcare costs, on the other hand, may cause stress, leading to a plethora of health issues, driving up healthcare costs for the rest of us...

  • whatelseisnew Jan 11, 2008

    Exercise is an entirely different activity. You can walk, run, bike ride, on and on without engaging in a sport that exposes you to the risk of an injury that require expensive surgery and physical therapy. So I am just going with the crowd here. Just the other day people where saying how not wearing a seat belt drives up health care costs. So I am on a mission that we need to cease any activity that might require us to have to have medical attention. The reason I mentioned youths is when experiencing an ACL injury earlier in life, their related health care costs will be greater because they will deal with that over a longer length of time and they are prone to further injury in that area of their bodies. If you engage in contact sports, the insurance companies should raise your premiums.

  • hp277 Jan 10, 2008

    I hope both these guys have a speedy recovery.

  • UpwardlyMobile Jan 10, 2008

    what in the world? ACL injuries are more common than you think but the young can get the surgery and keep on going. Now, my 35 year old husband had to let go of his aspirations of being the next Air Jordan when he tore his... but thats a story for another time.

  • mars_ultor Jan 10, 2008

    "Yep talk about unnecessary behavior that drives up health care costs; youth sports where people end up permanently injured is sure helping out. I say the Government should step in and either levy a heavy tax on all sporting events or outright ban all sporting events." -- whatelseisnew

    If you in fact are serious then this is one of the dumbest, most baseless comments I have ever encountered online. Me tearing my ACL and having subsequent surgery and rehab does not drive up your health care costs. Yeah, exercise sure is "unnesseary behavior"...or not. Maybe it's time you get up out of your lazyboy and take a look at the real world.

  • whatelseisnew Jan 10, 2008

    Yep talk about unnecessary behavior that drives up health care costs; youth sports where people end up permanently injured is sure helping out. I say the Government should step in and either levy a heavy tax on all sporting events or outright ban all sporting events.