Sidelining the hoopster: ACL tears and other basketball injuries

Sports injuries in basketball players run the gamut from bruises and jammed fingers to sprains and strains. One of the more serious injuries is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a tissue that provides stability to the knee joint.

Many basketball players at every level of play from youth leagues to the NBA have experienced this injury. Think Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Jabari Parker, and Shaun Livingston — all of these players were sidelined by an ACL injury. The injury not only results in immediate time away from the court, but also may lead to a lifelong change in how the knee functions, which may restrict performance.

Several research studies support programs designed to reduce the risk of injuring the ACL. For example, conditioning programs should be structured to ensure development of normal joint range of motion and flexibility; balanced lower extremity and core muscle strength; and proper jumping/landing techniques. Ensuring time for rest to allow the body to recover and to avoid fatigue is also essential to optimal musculoskeletal function and injury prevention.

In the event that a basketball player tears the ACL, surgery is typically recommended for several reasons. A torn ACL causes the knee joint to be unstable, which gives the player a feeling that the knee is “giving out.” That instability disrupts normal knee function and results in excess force being transmitted to the cartilage and meniscus, which may lead to tearing and early arthritis. Through surgery a torn ACL is replaced with a new piece of tissue to restore stability to the knee joint. Restoring stability allows the return of normal function and reduces the risk of injury to the meniscus and cartilage.

Many factors must be discussed with an orthopedic surgeon to ensure that the appropriate surgery is performed in order to restore normal function to the knee joint. Some of these factors include timing of the surgery, type of tissue used to reconstruct the torn ACL, rehabilitation, and criteria for return to play.

In order to learn more about injuries in basketball players and, specifically, ACL tears, use the following resources and contact Dr. DeFranco at The Athletes Clinic with any questions:


  1. Preventing Basketball Injuries

  1. Sports Injury Forum Radio Show – ACL Injuries In Athletes

An interview and instruction from Dr. William Clancy, MD

Dr. Clancy is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon and inventor of ACL reconstruction surgery. He was the orthopedic surgeon for the 1980 gold medal winning U.S Hockey Team (Miracle on Ice); U. S. Olympic Hockey and Nordic Ski Team Doctor; Former Chief of Orthopedic Surgery and Head Team Doctor for all Naval Academy Athletes. He was also team doctor for the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech University and Jacksonville State University.

  1. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries–conditions/anterior-cruciate ligament-acl-injuries/


The Problem of Sports Injuries

During the past several decades athletic activity has become a more common cause of injury among children, teenagers, and adults. In fact, millions of sports and recreational-related injuries occur each year. More than half of them occur between the ages of 5 and 24 years-old and require treatment by a doctor. These statistics most likely underestimate the problem because many athletes avoid medical attention or the injuries go unreported. Athletes may not seek medical care until an injury causes significant pain or in some way limits their ability to play. Sports with high injury rates include football, wrestling, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and track.

Sports injuries have increased due to the rise in the number of young athletes playing sports, the development of overaggressive training programs, year-round game schedules, and participation in multiple sports in one season. The cost of medical care for injured athletes has risen with the number of sports injuries. Billions of dollars are required to treat sports injuries each year. More importantly, an injury in a young athlete can potentially end an athletic career early and become a source of life-long disability.

More information:

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