An estimated 200,000 ACL-related injuries occur each year in the U.S. That’s when the thin ligament of the knee joint stretches or snaps. Doctors are reporting that the greatest number of patients they are seeing with this type of injury right now are those over 40.
If 40 is the new 30, does that still hold true when your body suffers a serious injury? Or is age really a factor in healing despite mental and physical fitness?
A recent article in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) discussed the differences between surgical and non-surgical treatments for patients over 40 (up to 59 years) with ACL injuries.
The research showed that if a RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and light physical therapy don’t initially work to combat pain and swelling, then surgery should be considered.
Given that aging, or genetically damaged ACLs, have reduced capacity to heal without intervention, surgery can be an attractive option. It may be especially good for those over 40 wanting to return to sports that involve pivoting (like basketball and soccer), or those requiring intense knee functionality for work, with regular bending, squatting, and lifting.
Positive surgery outcomes in those over 40 include:
- Improvements to knee stability
- Reduced osteoarthritis risk evaluated one, two and five years after surgery
- Results as good, if not better, than those who were younger (under 40 years of age), when combined with dedicated physical therapy as follow-up
An ACL injury that does not heal properly can lead to additional knee damage, meniscus tears, increased risk for arthritis, and chronic pain.
Patients should always be given the option on whether or not they’d like to pursue surgery after an in-depth discussion with their orthopedist. If you have questions about ACL reconstruction, or any other knee issues, please contact us for an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.
(Adapted from AAOS-American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)
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