Can women prevent ACL injuries?
After weeks of daily runs, strength training and mental preparation for ski season, Cherri Schadt
never thought her ski outing would end with a trip to the operating room. But, that is exactly what happened after her ski unexpectedly slipped out from underneath her, twisting her knee and tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
ACL injuries happen to thousands of Americans every year. The ACL is a ligament in the knee that stabilizes the joint. "While these injuries occur primarily in women who play basketball, soccer, and various other intense sports, they are rarely caused from contact with another player," states John Gray, MD, Virtua Health orthopaedic surgeon. "They are usually caused by the force that is created when the foot hits the ground and how the foot hits."
Women are at higher risk
Because women tend to land and pivot differently than men, the risk of ACL injuries in women is significantly higher. Medical professionals attribute this to the fact that women bend differently when playing sports, removing a degree of stress to the back, but increasing the stress put on their knees. According to Dr. Gray, women can be "re-trained" through specific coaching referred to as neuromuscular recruitment.
"Neuromuscular recruitment involves showing women how to land, pivot and bend in a way that creates less stress to their knees, and therefore cuts down on their risk for an ACL injury," states Dr. Gray. "While this training will decrease ACL injuries in some athletes, it won't prevent them all," states Virtua Health orthopaedic surgeon, Christopher Carey, MD.
Dr. Carey notes research shows anatomy may contribute to a woman's risk for ACL injuries. "Women have smaller bones and ligaments, which may make them more vulnerable to this type of injury."
Once this injury occurs, surgery is virtually unavoidable. "The best advice I can give is to stay in shape. It may not absolutely prevent injury, but it may contribute to a quicker recovery and rehab after surgery," states Dr. Carey.
Schadt strongly agrees: "I attribute my fast recovery to my good health — it made my rehab go so much quicker." Schadt had surgery less than a year ago, and is back to participating in high-impact aerobics as well as kickboxing. But, most importantly, she is able to run and play with her very active three-year-old daughter. "Being in good health and recovering so quickly meant a lot to me. But, it meant even more to my little girl."
Virtua achieves excellence in orthopaedics
Did you know that more patients come to Virtua for orthopaedic care than any other healthcare organization in South Jersey? And why not, considering Virtua was the first in the Northeastern United States to earn the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) certification for its total joint replacement program.
Virtua Health was awarded this certification after a rigorous in-depth review that closely examined every detail in the overall care of patients who had total joint replacements. This review provided evidence that Virtua clearly meets the uncompromising standards set forth by JCAHO. In addition, patients were randomly interviewed regarding their surgical experience.
Virtua now shares this recognition with only nine other healthcare organizations throughout the country and is able to provide more than 1,000 people a year with the best possible joint replacement treatment in the region.