It may appear that we’re experiencing an epidemic of anterior crutiate ligament injuries at the moment and there certainly seems to be a media focus on this injury following a couple of ACL ruptures among prominent GAA stars. With such media focus many patients of our clinic have been asking why is it such a common injury these days? People often site footwear or inappropriate playing surfaces as factors in contributing to major injuries such as the ACL rupture. This may or may not be the case.
My opinion however remains that the incidence of ACL rupture hasn’t suddenly increased. Rather the seeming increase may be explained by our access to superior diagnostics such as MRI scanning which has lead to increased confidence in accurately diagnosing such injuries. MRI is only widely available and accessible in Ireland in the last ten years. Up until this accurate diagnosis of ACL rupture was based on the history of the injury and the clinical examination of the patient. As such players may have reported a broader diagnosis such as “knee ligaments” rather than identifying specifically the anterior crutiate ligament. So while serious knee injuries where always prevalent, we’re now better able to identify the exact structure and often it appears to be the ACL.
Another reason for the apparent increase in ACL injuries may be due to traditional media having increased their reporting of player injuries. The prolonged recovery time of 6-9 months associated with an ACL injury is often sports headline-worthy. This in turn increases our perception of the number of ACL ruptures occurring, without it necessarily being the case.