Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are one of the more common injuries to the knee, and the incidence of such tears is even greater in high-demand athletes. Unfortunately, football stars Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets and Brian Cushing of the Texans can attest to this firsthand, as they both recently tore their ACLs, ending their respective NFL seasons.
The knee joint is primarily comprised of three bones: the femur, or thighbone, the tibia, or shinbone, and the patella, or kneecap. The ACL, which connects the femur to the tibia, is one of four ligaments that help support and stabilize the knee. Together, these ligaments allow the knee to act as a hinge. A healthy ACL is especially important for elite, professional athletes, such as Revis and Cushing, whose games are predicated on the ability to sprint, tackle, change direction and absorb heavy impact.
Tears to the ACL can occur from either non-contact athletic activity, such as changing direction, pivoting or landing after a jump, or through sudden impact to the knee. In Darrelle Revis’ case, his ACL tore when his knee buckled while attempting to tackle Miami Dolphin’s running back Daniel Thomas. In contrast, Brian Cushing’s ACL tear is a result of a contact injury from a controversial cut block made by Jets’ left guard Matt Slauson.
Untreated ACL tears result in decreased stability and control in the knee and can lead to damage of the meniscus, articular cartilage or other ligaments. However, there is hope for a full recovery in both players’ situations. Surgical repair of the ACL results in a successful return to sport in the majority of cases. Surgery involves taking a tendon graft from elsewhere in the body (patella tendon, hamstring tendon) and fixing the graft in the location of the normal ACL.
Modern arthroscopic techniques, which involve fiber optic technology, allow for small incisions and instruments to be utilized. The fact that both Revis and Cushing suffered their injuries earlier on in this season will allow them more time to recover and return for next season. After surgery, both will undergo physical therapy to restore strength, stability and range of motion in their knee and hope to return within six to nine months.
We wish both Darrelle Revis and Brian Cushing a speedy recovery and are looking forward to seeing both players back on the football field soon.