Medical Discovery May Improve Treatment of Knee Injuries

The discovery of a new knee ligament offers hope of improved treatment for sports-related knee injuries.

Sports that require sudden changes in direction can take a toll on athletes’ knees, and specifically on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that functions to stabilize the knee. This ligament is particularly vulnerable when an athlete makes a sudden twisting motion to change direction, or lands flat-footed after a jump.

ACL tears are common among athletes in soccer, basketball, skiing, and football. It is estimated that between athletes and trauma victims, there are over 100,000 ACL ruptures annually in the United States. Young women are nearly three times more susceptible to ACL injuries than men. For female soccer players, the statistics are even higher: women players are eight times more likely to injure their ACL.

Even with specialized surgical treatment and rehabilitation, some patients continue to suffer from “pivot shift”—episodes where their injured knee gave way during activity.

Two Belgian knee surgeons wanted to find out why these patients didn’t do better. Their research uncovered an 1879 article by a French surgeon suggesting the existence of an additional ligament in the knee. The Belgians investigated, using macroscopic dissection techniques to explore 41 cadaveric knees. Their discovery, announced last week, confirmed the hypothesis of the French surgeon. The dissections revealed the existence of a previously undescribed ligament on the anterior of the knee, called the anterolateral ligament (ALL).

The discovery of this new ligament could be a breakthrough in the treatment of ACL injuries. Research is currently underway on a surgical technique to address and correct ALL injuries.

Dr. Jack Skendzel, Orthopedic Surgeon with Summit Orthopedics, says, “Dr. Claus’ findings are potentially significant because even when properly performed, up to 15% of patients can continue to have instability after ACL reconstruction. Further work is needed to determine if a tear of the anterolateral ligament may be responsible for persistent pivoting after an ACL reconstruction, including biomechanical testing and following patients over many years after surgery.”

In the meantime, the best possible resolution is to prevent these injuries from ever happening. Jumping exercises that train athletes to land on the balls of their feet, and balance training to improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions have reduced the incidence of ACL tears. Athletes, as well as the rest of us, can reduce the risk of ACL injury by focusing on exercises that improve balance and agility.

Sports medicine: Expert bone, joint, and muscle care

From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to a more active self: Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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  • Jack Skendzel, M.D.

    “An active lifestyle requires superior physical function, and I understand that my patients have exceptionally high standards for their performance and joint health. My goal is to return patients to optimal function so that they can continue to perform and master their personal athletic goals.”

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  • Kristoffer Breien, M.D.

    “I tend to be more conservative in my approach, reserving surgery as a last option. In essence, I strive to care for patients and their problems in the same manner my family and I expect to be treated when we seek medical attention.”

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  • Wendy Gohr, PTA

    “Never stop moving.”

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  • Peter Parten, M.D.

    “Like most people, our family is always on the go between work, kids, school, and sports. There is never a good time to rest or recover from an injury. My challenge is to enable patients of all ages to return to sports, work, and life as soon as possible.”

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