Preventing Knee Injuries


DURHAM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s a painful and devastating knee injury that can leave you sidelined for months. Now, researchers are looking at ways to help prevent ACL tears from happening.

Hattie Cutcliffe has loved gymnastics since she was a little girl.

Cutcliffe told Ivanhoe, “I was one of those kids who was rough and tumble- just bouncing around everywhere.”

That was until one day on the balance beam …

“I was doing a skill called an aerial cartwheel, which is essentially a cartwheel with no hands,” Cutcliffe explained.

She landed off balance and tore her anterior cruciate ligament or ACL.

“There are over 400,000 ACL tears in the U.S. each year,” Louis E. DeFrate, PhD, Frank H. Bassett III, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Duke University explained. (Read Full Interview)

DeFrate and his research team at Duke University are studying the causes of ACL tears. In the hopes of preventing this type of injury, DeFrate and his team created a ‘stress test,’ combining MRIs of the knee with high tech X-ray imaging.

“We can see which positions the ACL is stretched the most and when it’s most likely to fail,” DeFrate said. Which can lead to better training programs for athletes and weekend warriors.

DeFrate continued, “Perhaps working certain muscle groups to prevent the injury from happening.”

Hattie now coaches young girls’ gymnastics and teaches them the proper way to land, keeping young athletes active and their knees safe from injury.

Duke researchers also studied surgical techniques for ACL replacement. They have already discovered ways to improve placement to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. For more information on this research please visit

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4353

BACKGROUND: An ACL injury is the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament, one of the major ligaments that make up the knee. They most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops, changing of direction, or jumping. For example; soccer, football, tennis, volleyball and gymnastics. Many people may hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when the injury occurs, as well as feel unstable, swelling of the knee, and it may become too painful to put any weight on it. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may include rest and rehabilitation exercises to help regain strength and stability. Surgery may be necessary to replace the torn ligament; this is followed up with rehabilitation.

RISK FACTOR: Women are more likely than men to have an ACL injury than men who participate in the same sports. Studies have suggested some reasons for this. Women athletes overall exhibit a strength imbalance in their thighs; with the muscle with the front being stronger than those in the back. The hamstrings help prevent the shinbone from moving too far forward, a movement that can cause an overextension of the ACL.

COMPLICATIONS: People who experience an ACL injury may be at higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis, which occurs when the joint cartilage deteriorates and its smooth surface becomes rough. Arthritis may occur even if someone has surgery to reconstruct the ligament. Multiple factors can influence the likelihood or risk of arthritis, such as the severity of the original knee injury, the presence of another related injury in the knee, or the level of activity after treatment.


NEW FOCUS ON PREVENTION: There is a new focus on the prevention of these knee injuries. A team of researchers at Duke University are studying the cause of ACL tears, in hopes of preventing this type of injury; they’ve created a stress test which combines MRIs of the knees with high tech X-ray imaging. This may lead to better training programs for athletes in the future, focusing on prevention instead of post-injury treatment. Duke researchers are also studying surgical techniques for ACL replacement, they have already discovered ways to improve graft placement to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.

(Source: Louis E. DeFrate, PhD)


Louis E. DeFrate

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