A recent UEFA study has challenged the traditional approach to treating anterior-cruciate knee ligament injuries, highlighting alarming failure rates for elite soccer players and a worrying economic impact for their clubs.
The report, which was compiled over the past 14 years, says that after up to a year on the sidelines in costly rehab, more than a third of elite players who have undergone a conventional ACL reconstruction have yet to regain their pre-injury levels of speed or strength three years later. With the average player at a Champions League club costing E20,000 for every day on the sidelines, Europe’s top clubs are wasting countless millions in lost salary and transfer-fees.
UEFA’s study raises grave concerns regarding the traditional approach to ACL reconstruction, which involves stabilising the knee with dead tissue secured in a tunnel drilled through the knee. The replacement tissue usually comes from the player’s hamstring or patellar tendon, which also weakens these important ligaments.
Above: An acute ACL tear
If the athletes who understand the importance of marginal gains and minimising further injury through surgery are already turning their back on traditional ACL reconstruction, UEFA’s intervention has alerted the agents and clubs of top footballers to the need for alternatives. After all, there is nowhere in sport where the financial imperative to keep the best players on the pitch is as great as in football and, with sport now a business, how long before the conventional ACL surgery becomes strictly a salvage procedure if repair is not successful or in the event of reinjury
Read the full article here – ACL injuries in men’s professional football: a 15-year prospective study on time trends and return-to-play rates reveals only 65% of players still play at the top level 3 years after ACL rupture