The words “ACL tear” resound with many sports enthusiasts who know that this is usually a season-ending injury for an athlete. Yankees fans were devastated to hear that superstar closing pitcher Mariano Rivera suffered an ACL tear during batting practice last week. ACL is short for anterior cruciate ligament, a major stabilizer of the knee when cutting, running, and even going up and down stairs. An ACL tear can happen at any age and from many different causes, including sports, falls, and work injuries.
When an ACL tears, some people hear and feel a pop in the knee. They can also have swelling, pain, and a feeling of their knee giving out. Clinical testing of the knee and an MRI would confirm the diagnosis. Some people can rehabilitate their knee after a tear without surgery, especially if they do not need to perform high-level leg activities like running and sports. Other people may opt to have ACL reconstructive surgery instead.
ACL surgery involves taking a tendon from another part of the leg and connecting it in place of the torn ligament or using a graft from a cadaver. The incisions are typically very small and barely noticeable once healed. After surgery, the knee will be put into an immobilizer (knee brace) to keep it straight and stable. Crutches are used to move around, although most people can start to put some weight on the leg almost immediately.
The rehab for ACL reconstruction typically starts in the first 2 weeks after surgery. It is lengthy but very important to restore knee function and a return to prior activities. A typical person, athlete or not, can expect to be in rehab for at least 3 months. The first phase of rehab focuses on regaining full knee range of motion and return to normal walking. The second phase focuses on strengthening and the third on return to sports or work-specific activities. Most surgeons will clear someone for running around 4 months after surgery if they have adequate strength, which is why a ball player is usually out for the season. Time will tell if Rivera is able to pitch at all this year.
What do you think this does for the Yankees chances this year?