Improving long-term outcomes after ACL injuries

Improving long-term outcomes after ACL injuries
Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 10:37 PM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWQC) - A torn ACL is an injury that no athlete wants to face.

“Unfortunately, we don’t see partial or sprains very much, it’s usually okay or it’s not,” said Dr. Brian Wolf, a professor of orthopedics for the University of Iowa Sports Medicine. “When that happens, the knee is rotated or pivoted out of position, and that ACL is in charge of controlling that motion, and if it is overloaded it will pop or snap.”

For decades, the University of Iowa Sports Medicine has worked to help improve a patient’s long-term outcome after an ACL injury.

“Having a little bit of looseness in your knee puts you at risk for other things getting damaged, such as cartilage and a meniscus, which over time can get more problems,” Wolf said.

Iowa is a part of two clinical studies aimed at identifying and preventing post-traumatic osteoarthritis from developing after an ACL repair.

“Recently we’ve done a study where we are studying patients that have had ACL surgery, plus or minus an additional tightening on the side of their knee called lateral extra-articular tenodesis,” Wolf said. “It can be added to traditional ACL surgery that we are doing now, and there is some suggestion that might help increase the stability of the knee, and maybe lessen our reinjury rate when athletes get back to sports.”

Roughly 70 people are in the trial, but Wolf said that number might expand to 100.

University of Iowa Health Care is also one of just nine research centers participating in the post-injury knee arthritis severity outcomes trial. It’s something that will measure changes in joint structure through advanced imaging and includes a patient receiving a medical pill after ACL surgery.

“It’s a pill that’s been shown to potentially have very positive impacts on joints and inflammation to study whether or not it lowers the risk of certain patients having or developing arthritis problems in their knee after their injury,” Wolf said. “This trial will be experimenting with a medical option to potentially have patients lessen that risk. So it’s very exciting. It’s kind of a new way to attack it, it’s not a surgical intervention.”

Wolf said he’s optimistic about the trials.

“I think what makes medicine exciting is trying to change things for the future, and some of our prior research we’ve been able to help change practice and change how things are treated,” Wolf said. “Whether it’s a surgical technique or medication option, we’re trying to explore ways to make standard care for injuries like ACLs better as we move into the future.”