One of my favorite topics is back in the news. Apparently ACL repairs may be unnecessary. Here’s the WSJ Health Blog write up about the NEJM study. Two groups of active young people with torn ACLs were split. Half got immediate ACL repair, half got rehab and later repair if they needed it. Of the second group around 39% needed surgery but when the two groups (surg vs surg when rehab wasn’t enough) were assessed there was no difference.
Mostly this is a big duh! A simple ACL tear doesn’t need fixing unless you are going to go skiing, play soccer, volleyball or some other sport that needs it. I had a left knee simple ACL tear in my early 30s, had it fixed after 6 months wait & rehab and went back to all those sports. (Although I never seriously tested it in a twisting sport before repair).
Then several years later I had both a right knee ACL tear and a few weeks later multiple trauma to my left knee—3 ligament tears and other damage. (Advice to you all; snowboard around the tree not into it). My left knee has never recovered (nor will it) to take part in those twisting sports so I never had the right one fixed (I did get a new ACL & PCL in left knee as I need to be able to walk again!). But the right knee with no ACL is fine for walking, running, biking and even controlled pivoting for snowboarding—where the leg is locked in place vis a vis the other one.
But if I try to twist in a gentle soccer kickabout on my right knee I fall on my ass. So for my earlier ACL repair I suspect that I would have been in the group that needed surgery anyway (the 39%). So if you don’t want to or don’t need to play those sports OR if you do the rehab and are fine, you don’t need a repair, But if you do need to play those sports and rehab alone doesn’t work, then you do.
The question is how many people are getting the ACL repair but never gave rehab a try? Probably quite a few, and for them rehab with the option of surgery is a good idea.
But the real question is how many people are getting ACL repairs when they’re not participants in those sports? Anyone know?
Categories: Matthew Holt