The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), is a small ligament located in the knee that controls the back and forth motion of the knee. Nowadays, athletes have become familiar with the ACL as it has become one of the most common injuries in sports. In fact, according to Pacific University Athletic Trainer Eric Pitkanen, Pacific sees anywhere between 5-15 ACL injuries per year. “I don’t think we have had a year less than five total ACL’s,” Pitkanen said. “I would estimate we average closer to 10 over the last five or six years.”
There are many ways that anyone can injure their ACL. Pitkanen says 80-85 percent of all ACL injuries are non-contact. In most cases, this occurs because of planting your foot in the ground and the rotational forces go in the opposite direction. The other 15-20 percent come from trauma where athletes are hit from the side while planted. Unlike a sprained ankle or a concussion, an ACL injury will require surgery and a minimum of six to nine months of rehab depending on the severity of the injury. One athlete who is no stranger to ACL injuries is junior wide receiver Chad Aragon who tore his ACL his freshman year in his first game and again this season in practice.
“The first time I just tore my ACL completely and I had only minor bruising,” Aragon said. “The second time I tore my ACL and my lateral meniscus.” Even after going through a successful rehab process after his first ACL injury, Aragon still felt the physical effects of that tear before it happened again this season. “The first time it was really painful,” Aragon said. “I had a loss of strength, so I couldn’t really put any weight on it. I didn’t feel like I could do the same things. I didn’t feel like I could be as fast as I once was and achieve what I wanted to achieve.” The ACL is a delicate ligament in the knee and even with rehab and strength training, it can still have long-term physical effects on athletes.