Recreational Soccer Player’s Torn ACL Repaired & Rehabbed

For Immediate Release

What One Recreational Soccer League Tears Down, A Leading Orthopaedic Surgeon Puts Back Together
A Torn ACL Repaired and Rehabbed for Spring Soccer Season

Connecticut recreational soccer player Jaime Cardinale juggles a more than full schedule between full-time studies at Norwalk Community College (Norwalk, CT) and two part-time jobs. In between, her passion for playing womens soccer nearly came to an abrupt end. During a drive for the goal in late April, 2007, she planted her left leg and moments later collapsed to the field in excruciating pain. By evening, following a regimen of icing, her knee swelled the size of a small watermelon. An MRI eventually revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), bruised meniscus, and partially torn medial collateral ligament.

The ACL is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee. Most injuries occur in the young, athletic population. The ACL is injured when it sustains a force that exceeds the strength of the ligament. This may result from non-contact injury (landing awkwardly, cutting or changing direction). The risk of ACL injury is highest in sports that require pivoting, jumping, cutting or a rapid change of direction.

An examination by Kevin Plancher, M.D. a renowned Connecticut orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist and head of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Greenwich, Connecticut, provided Cardinale two options. If I wanted to play sports again, he recommended reconstructing the ACL surgically, Cardinale explained. If I didn’t want to continue, I could live without the ACL but couldn’t face the possibility of arthritis and other problems as I got older. I love playing soccer and chose the first option.

Dr. Plancher performed a minimally invasive arthroscopic ACL surgical repair on July 3, 2007. By using small incisions, he was able to take a new graft (Cardinale’s bone with a piece of patellar tendon) and place it inside her knee. Surgery went very well, Cardinale said. That same night I was able to go out and watch fireworks. I never had any pain. I followed his individualized rehabilitation program with my physical therapist and checked in with him frequently.

Women suffer ACL injuries at a significantly higher rate than men, said Kevin Plancher, MD. The ACL connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). Athletes like Jaime are particularly susceptible to ACL injuries because this ligament can be torn when a person changes direction rapidly, slows down from running or lands from a jump all a regular part of a competitive soccer regimen. These tears prevent the knee from being able to support the body, and often require surgical repair.

Researchers believe the way women are built is the cause why they are more likely to experience knee injuries than men. Women tend to have wider hips and are slightly knock-kneed (their thighbones tend to curve inward from the hip to the knee) and this alignment can create added stress on the joints. Another cause could be traced to a female’s muscles. More often, women tend to use their leg muscles differently than men.

Patients who experience ACL tears usually describe a feeling of the joint giving out or buckling, with many also hearing a pop when the knee is first injured, said Plancher.

Currently in physical therapy, Cardinale gives high marks for the surgery. They have me doing more and more complex exercises every day, including jogging and squats, she said. I look forward to starting the spring soccer season.

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