ACL Injuries: What You Don’t Know

On Feb. 13, 2016, Sean Mayberry went up for a layup against Albright College; a move that he has executed a thousand times. But this time he hears a pop in his left knee, the unforgettable sound he has heard only one other time in his life.

The next day, Mayberry went to see Dr. Michael Bennett, assistant professor of orthopedics at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and was told that for the second time within a year he tore his ACL.

“I was devastated,” said Mayberry, junior basketball player at Stevenson University.

According to Beaumont Health Systems, there are approximately 100,000 to 200,000 ACL ruptures every year in the United States and these injuries are common for professional and recreational athletes.

After surgery it takes an athlete six to nine months to fully recover from the injury, according to Head Athletic Trainer at Hood College Jennie Bowker.

This is the second year that Mayberry would have to sit out and recover from the same injury. Is this just a coincidence or are there other factors to someone reinjuring their ACL?

“Dr. Bennett told me that my injuries might have something to do with my genetics,” said Mayberry. “My father [also] injured his ACL when he was younger while playing [basketball].”

According to a study in 2009 by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, South African researchers found that genetics can be a reason for injury and then re-injury of the ACL, and that those who had torn their ACL were four times as likely to have a blood relative who had suffered the same injury.

Even after being fully recovered, active athletes are 15 times more likely to re-injure their ACL after the first surgery, according to the American Society of Orthopedic Surgeons.

There are many ways that athletes can re-injure their ACL but one is by having complications from their first surgery.

Kai Dalce, Hood College sophomore basketball player, tore his left ACL twice in a three-year span and had two different doctors for each of his surgeries. For his second surgery he went to Dr. Bennett.

“[Dr. Bennett] told me the other doctor drilled too big of a hole in my leg, which made me more susceptible to re-injuring it,” said Dalce.

The patient can also have an effect on their recovery. If a player doesn’t take the full recovery time or doesn’t take rehabilitation seriously then they can create more injuries, according to Bowker.

Eboni Staples, junior women’s basketball player at Hood College, tore both of her right and left ACL(s) in a six-year span.

She first tore her left ACL in middle school and then she tore her right ACL during her sophomore year of college. Each of her injuries generated two different mindsets.

“In middle school, I feel I didn’t have time. I put the pressure on myself to come back. My family and coaches told me to take my time. But, no I got to get back [on the court],” said Staples.

Her surgeon Dr. John Tis, physician advisor and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at John Hopkins Medicine, said that her second injury was inevitable because her right leg was being overused.

“I learned from the first surgery if you take your time then you’ll get better results. Once you rush it you’ll have to work 10 times harder to get to where you want to be,” said Staples.

Each of these players is fully recovered from their injuries and plans to play for their respective teams this upcoming college basketball season.

Still, ACL injuries can be unpredictable even when fully healed because it is the mindset of athletes that matters in recovery. Every player must go through fear to be able to fully recover and have confidence that the body part is fully healed, according to Health Essentials.

“I just remember my coach [Darnell Hopkins] told me ‘Don’t be afraid. It’s not like you’re going to die if you miss a jump shot,’” said Dalce. “That helped me a lot.”

However, even with a great support system in place 25 to 40 percent of athletes do not return from ACL injuries, according to Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

“My surgeon told me, you might want to let basketball go and hang up the shoes,” said Staples. “But, basketball is how I relieve stress and be in my own world.”

For each of these players they understand the risk involved and the rate of re-injury, but still want to play because the game means something more to them.

“I do it for the love of the game and I haven’t ever been a person to give up, so that wasn’t an option,” said Mayberry. “[And] I’m going to come back and play at my abilities.”