Ski season is here and the Winter Olympics in Sochi are quickly approaching. Recently, news broke that ski star Lindsey Vonn pulled out of the Olympics due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. ACL tears in the knee are a common injury among athletes, but the good news is that a torn ACL will fully recover with the proper surgery, rest, and rehabilitation.
In February of 2013, Lindsey tore both her ACL and medial collateral ligament, and suffered a tibial plateau fracture during a skiing accident. I expressed my concerns to the Washington Post at that time, and luckily, Lindsey recovered quickly through reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation before the Olympics.
Unfortunately, Lindsey tore her reconstructed ACL during training in November. At that point, there was not enough time to surgically revise the ACL and rehabilitate her in time for Sochi. Lindsey made efforts to prepare for the Olympic Games with a custom brace, but she found that a brace would not give her the stability needed in a high-level competition. The only option was to withdraw.
Ski injuries are one of the most common causes for tearing an ACL. The usual culprit is a spill or fall with the skis still attached. The skier notes immediate swelling and knee pain, but the injury is much deeper. Subsequently, the swelling and pain may diminish, but because the ACL is an important stabilizer for the knee, the person may experience recurrent instability and buckling. Each time the knee buckles there is risk for additional damage and tears to the articular cartilage or meniscus. Further rehabilitation, possibly including surgical treatment, is needed to heal the knee.
Conserving cartilage and maintaining motion is pivotal for overall joint health. Ultimately, we are born with only a certain amount cartilage. When the majority of it is lost, it results in arthritis, where the bones rub together causing significant pain that can affect both life and function.
Orthopedic wellness takes the basic concept of preservation and applies it to the well-being of our joints, bones and muscles. The key is preserving the basic integrity of all these structures. However, unexpected accidents do happen. Lindsey Vonn will no doubt receive excellent treatment for her ACL tear, and I hope to see her competing on the slopes in 2018.