Posts Tagged ‘knee injury’

New Technology for Reducing Risk & Recovery Times for Young Athletes

John Xerogeanes MDWhether your child plays football, basketball, soccer or gymnastics, a common worry for many parents is the looming possibility of a sports injury. In many of these sports, anatomic anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are one of the most common injuries young athletes experience. For most children who injure their ACL, treatment consists of rehabilitation, wearing a brace, and reducing athletic activity levels until they stop growing (usually around their mid-teens), at which point ACL reconstruction surgery can safely be performed.

Why do we wait until kids stop growing to perform the surgery? ACL operations are typically conducted with extensive use of X-rays in the operating room, which often leads to a large margin of “chance” when working around growth plates. Essentially, performing ACL surgery on a young child significantly increases the risk of causing a growth plate disturbance.

To help ease this fear and risk, we’ve developed a new 3-D MRI technology at Emory Sports Medicine Center. The 3-D MRI technology makes it possible for surgeons to reconstruct ACL tears in young athletes without disturbing the growth plate. This technology allows us to better pre-operatively plan and perform ACL surgery with more precision and less risk.

As one of the four major ligaments in the knee, the ACL is somewhat like a rubber band, attached at two points to keep the knee stable. In order to replace the ligament, a tunnel is created in the upper and lower knee bones (femur and tibia) and a new ligament (typically taken from a hamstring or allograft tissue) is slid between those tunnels and attached at each end.

With the new 3-D technology being used at Emory, we can actually see from one end to the other on either side of the knee, and can correctly position the tunnels so we are able to place the new ligament with more precision. With this technology, ACL surgery can be done in less time than the traditional surgery, and we have great confidence that the growth plates in our young patients will not be damaged.

Kids who undergo this type of operation will still have at least one year of recovery time. The good news, is that it does allow them to eventually pursue normal activity much sooner than they would with the traditional surgery. This new method of ACL reconstruction is able to be performed on children and adults alike. My hope is that this new technology will aid us in preventing future re-injury for athletes who have suffered from ACL tears.

About John Xerogeanes, MD:

Dr. Xerogeanes, or Dr. “X”, is chief of Sports Medicine at the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center. He is also head orthopaedist and team physician for Georgia Tech, Emory University, and Agnes Scott College. As a member of a number of professional societies and organizations, including the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Dr. Xerogeanes has contributed to many textbooks and has received numerous research awards. Dr. Xerogeanes’ work has been featured on CNN, ESPN and network television news

How Long Does It Take to Return From ACL Surgery?

If you’re a fan of the New England Patriots (or just a sports-medicine physician and surgeon), you’ve probably been watching the comeback of receiver Wes Welker from ACL reconstructive surgery very closely. Welker tore his ACL in January of this year, and the latest news suggests he’s aiming to start Game 1 of the NFL season on September 12. He’s already participated in contact drills with the Patriots.

Welker’s comeback has raised some eyebrows because he’s pushing conventional time limits for his return to the sport. Most people who undergo reconstructive knee surgery can return to athletic activities at six to eight months, but they’re usually not back to their previous level of competition until one year. Keep in mind—we’re not talking about tennis with a friend here; this is the NFL.

Professional athletes are like a Petri dish for the rest of us. They take the human body to the limits of what it can do, and so we learn from them. Ultimately, we often want to emulate them, which is why it’s important to put Welker’s comeback into perspective.

One of my patients, a Georgia Tech football player, is coming back from ACL reconstruction, and he’s complaining of soreness. We stress to kids that the average pro football player takes 54 weeks to return to play after an ACL injury. When a patient tries to return earlier, they often experience pain and swelling, and are at some level of increased risk of re-injury.

Here are some warning signs we look for that could indicate an athlete is pushing the limits on their comeback:

1. Pain and soreness in the front part of the knee (in the patella tendon area)

2. Swelling of the knee

3. A general feeling of fatigue

If a patient experiences one or more of these symptoms, they need to back off from their training, and concentrate on icing, riding the exercise bike, and resting. They can always resume training when they’re feeling better. If you’ve had ACL surgery and your “comeback” to the activities you enjoy isn’t going as expected, call us at Emory Sports Medicine. We can provide a safe, solid game plan for your return to action.

Meanwhile, if Welker succeeds and contributes another valuable season to Tom Brady and the Patriots, his determination should be praised; however, that doesn’t mean his quick comeback should be emulated.

About John Xerogeanes, MD:

Dr. Xerogeanes, or Dr. “X”, is chief of Sports Medicine at the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center. He is also head orthopaedist and team physician for Georgia Tech, Emory University, and Agnes Scott College. As a member of a number of professional societies and organizations, including the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Dr. Xerogeanes has contributed to many textbooks and has received numerous research awards. Dr. Xerogeanes’ work has been featured on CNN, ESPN and network television news.