Tearing the ACL is a serious injury, one that can mean the end of a sports career for some.
But new Cleveland Clinic research is showing that with proper surgery and rehabilitation, many can maintain good results for years to come.
For the research, patients were enrolled over a six-year period. During the first half of the research period 1,592 patients were examined, of which, 80 percent were followed up with after two, six and ten years.
All of the patients had ACL tears, and then ACL surgery.
Kurt Spindler, M.D., was an author of the study. He said that even after ten years, those who had ACL surgery were doing better than expected.
“As a population, whatever the outcomes were – sports, pain and function – what they had at two years, they maintained that at six years and ten years, so there was no drop-off, which was quite surprising,” said Dr. Spindler.
Dr. Spindler said that while patients did report a drop-off in the number of physical activities they were performing ten years after surgery, their pain and their sports-scores remained constant.
Researchers also learned that the progress that people had at one year after surgery remained unchanged after two years, so proper rehabilitation during the first year after surgery is critical.
Dr. Spindler said other factors made it possible to predict who would have a worse outcome in ten years.
“Some of the things, like any severe damage to your articular cartilage; any revision surgery, anyone with a higher BMI, any smoker, those things gave you a worse outcome,” said Dr. Spindler.
When a person has suffered an ACL tear, Dr. Spindler said the decision to have surgery or not is a discussion that each individual needs to have with their physician, but he said a torn ACL will not repair on its own without surgery.
Complete results of the study can be found in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.