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Knee News

ACL Injuries in Former College Sports Athletes

College athletes are at high risk for tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee. This serious injury is especially common in basketball, football, and soccer players. An ACL injury usually requires surgery for the athlete to return to competition. Rehabilitation can be difficult. ACL injuries often end athletic careers.

How will an ACL injury affect a college athlete in the future? To find out, these authors sent surveys to Division 1-A athletes who had finished college two to 14 years earlier. Half of the athletes had suffered an ACL tear during college; the other half had not. They all answered questions about knee pain and function, quality of life, and their participation in sports since college.

The results showed no significant difference between the two groups. The main difference seemed to be that athletes who had injured ACLs in college had, on average, lower scores for knee function by one type of ranking. Other than that, the two groups seemed to have similar quality of life scores and seemed to participate in sports at about the same level. However, the authors note that only five of the injured athletes played professional sports, compared to 14 of the uninjured athletes.

Most of the athletes with torn ACLs had surgery. The surveys also showed no significant differences between athletes who had surgery and those who hadn't. The authors don't draw any conclusions about treatment from this. They didn't ask for details about the injuries. The study was also small and involved athletes from the same college. But the results do suggest that elite college athletes are recovering quite well from ACL tears.


David R. McAllister, MD, et al. Knee Function after Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury in Elite Collegiate Athletes. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. July/August 2003. Vol. 31. No. 4. Pp. 560-563.

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