By Samantha Gillis
He is lying on his back. When he goes to sit up the blood rushes to the knee and a searing pain drills him back to his pillow. Three weeks earlier Ian High, sophomore defender on the men’s soccer team, was merely jogging across the soccer field during a home game against Saint Mary’s University, when he crumbled to the ground after his foot hit a divot wrong and a pop came from his knee. His Anterior Cruciate Ligament had been torn.
“I couldn’t put my foot to the ground. I was just hoping I could play the rest of the season,” High said. High went into to surgery a week later and was out for the rest of the regular season.
Amanda Beadle, head athletic trainer, said, “ACL tears are the dreaded injury for athletes.” It takes on average 6 months of rehabilitation and major reconstructive surgery for an athlete to bounce back, but Beadle said after surgery, the ACL is usually much stronger.
High visits the athletic training room for about an hour every day. “It’s frustrating. There was a point when I just wanted to give up,” he said.
Typically, the tear happens in a contact sport where an athlete gets hit and the tendon just snaps, or it happens if the athlete takes off and just twists the knee wrong.
“It’s come to the point where an ACL tear isn’t a big deal here, because there have been so many,” Beadle said. “The problem is sports like basketball didn’t use to be considered a contact sport. Now it is.”
Athletes are even starting to tear their ACL at an earlier age. “As early as 11-years-old,” said Beadle.
The ACL is located behind the knee cap and it crosses with the patellar tendon, when it is torn occasionally the medical collateral ligament and lateral meniscus follow suit. This is called the ‘unhappy triode.’
“There is not much you can do to prevent tendon injuries, because you cannot strengthen the actual ACL. You can only build the muscles around it, like the hamstring and calf muscle,” Beadle said.
ACL tears are one of the most common injuries with athletes-especially females. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30,000 females 19 and younger suffered ACL injuries which required surgical repair in 2006.
“It’s not exactly clear why females are more susceptible but there are some factors,” said Beadle.
As boys hits puberty their testosterone levels increase and naturally build muscles. But when women’s estrogen levels rise they build more fat and their tendons become more lax and susceptible to injury.
Another factor is anatomical-the pelvis bone on females is wider, which causes the angle from the ankle to the hip to be greater, putting more strain on the knee.
However, Beadle thinks that in some ways ACL tears can be prevented with proper training. “Jumping exercises to help your muscles fire at the right time to absorb your landing can help. Also learning the proper way to accelerate and decelerate. Boys usually learn to do this when they are young and jumping around but girls never really get this training,” Beadle said.
A torn ACL isn’t the only knee injury players can suffer.
Shelby Lynn Cue, sophomore pitcher for the women’s softball team, wasn’t jumping or twisting. She had just bent down to take a routine ground ball when a pop in her knee sealed her fate. “I thought it was my ACL at first but it wasn’t,” she said. It was her patella tendon.
Six months and three reconstructive surgeries later, her battle is only half done.
“The doctors told me I can never play a competitive sport again,” she said. “My whole life I have been involved in every type of sport: cheerleading, volleyball and softball. Now I can’t even do what I love. It is so frustrating,” she said.
Cue must lean upon her family and friends for support. “My friend Morgan Constantine (sophomore defender on the women’s soccer team) tore her ACL last year.
“She completely understands where I am at and is always there with an encouraging word and support on my bad days,” Cue said.
Beadle has been working with Dr. Bradley Bruner from Orthopedic and Sports Medicine at Cypress in Wichita.
“He’s a great doctor. He trusts us and is able to get the athletes into surgery within seven to ten days, just enough time to let the swelling go down,” she said.
Beadle feels as though Dr. Bruner treats SC with a lot of respect. “He treats us like a Division I school. We get great treatment and he makes almost weekly visits on little to no cost from us.”
High and Cue will continue their rehabilitation and fight through the aggravation their injuries bring. Both hope to start practicing again at the end of the 2010 spring semester.
Cue said, “You truly don’t know how frustrating it is until it happens to you.”
Samantha Gillis is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.