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Why so many people get their ACLs injured nowadays? It’s technically their fault

Posted July 25, 2019

If you follow sports, you know how often professional athletes experience injuries. Not only it hinders various sports events, it is also incredibly painful and demoralizing. Knee injuries are very common between both professional and amateur athletes. But why exactly people’s ACLs are breaking up? Scientists from the University of Michigan and Monash University found the answer.

ACL injuries due to repeated strenuous activity without sufficient recovery time. Image credit: kcxd via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

ACL, anterior cruciate ligament, has put many professional fighters, football and basketball players out of service. Recovery periods may be up to 12 months long, these injuries require surgeries and are extremely painful. Scientists also point out that these athletes may develop knee osteoarthritis. Worryingly, scientists also found that the peak age for ACL failures is 14, which means that more severe problems later in life are very likely. Those include obesity and cardiovascular disease. While many men experience ACL injuries, females are at most risk of developing these long lasting post-injury effects.

But how ACL injuries actually occur? Are they a result of simply not being careful when making steps? Or are there other factors involved?

Scientists tested one healthy knee from each of seven adult cadavers in a controlled laboratory study. They used a machine, which was developed over a period of three years. This contraption was able to subject those knees to forces that could be experienced during normal athletic use. Then researchers used an atomic force microscopy to characterise the ACL collagen at the nanometre scale. Researchers discovered a consistent unravelling of the molecular structure of the ACL’s collagen in the injured cadaver knees. These results were consistent with what doctors were seeing during ACL injury surgeries. But what actually causes these injuries?

Unsurprisingly, scientists determined that repeated stress and lack of rest are the damaging factors for ACL. This explains why professional athletes and older active people are experiencing these injuries. However, the worrying trend is pointing towards young inexperienced people. Professor James Ashton-Miller, one of the lead authors of the study, said: “Until we have more answers, it’s not worth pushing our bodies and ligaments to the extreme because of the potential long-term damage it can cause. There are limits to what the human body can tolerate. Being more selective about the training that is done is clearly warranted”.

You should definitely do sports. However, try to find ways to exercise without putting too much stress on your joints. And definitely always allow for some time for your body to fully recover before putting it through more stress.


Source: Monash University

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