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Physician Update – May 2022

Does That Patient Really Need Surgery?

PT Can Help Heal ACL Injuries — In the NBA and Beyond

NBA basketball is a rough sport. Every year the association loses players to ankle sprains,
jammed fingers, and foot fractures. But there’s one body part NBA players dread injuring over all others, especially in May when the playoffs are looming: the knee.

According to a 2021 Stanford Medicine study, knee problems (which make up 13.8% of
reportable NBA injuries) have the longest recovery time of any injury set. It takes NBA
players like Al Harrington and David West, who’ve torn their anterior cruciate ligaments
(ACLs), an average of 9.8 months to get back on the court, and 11%–16% of players who
suffer ACL injuries never return to the game.

The majority of the players in the Stanford study likely underwent ACL reconstruction
surgery, but that invasive procedure isn’t the only option for professional athletes or ordinary people. In fact, it’s not even the recommended option for many of us! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an estimated 250,000 Americans suffer ACL injuries like tears and ruptures every year, and with the help of rehabilitation programs that include physical therapy, tens of thousands of them can avoid surgery altogether.

In their conceptual review of ACL tear treatments, Drs. Bugunovic and Matava recommend ACL reconstruction surgery only for “active patients who want to resume participation in jumping, cutting, or pivoting sports; patients who have physically demanding occupations; or patients who fail a trial of nonoperative management.”

For everyone else, they noted “a combination of physical therapy, bracing, and activity
modification can yield successful results.” Physical therapy can reduce a patient’s swelling and pain and restore the range of motion in their knee. It’s a crucial part of rehabilitation for non-athletes with ACL tears, and it’s also vital for patients who do have to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. Physical therapists like me can recommend exercises and sports-specific activities that will speed up their recovery and get them back on the court, field, or job site.

NBA player David West is living proof of the effectiveness of PT. After tearing his ACL in
2011, undergoing surgery, and returning to the NBA, Bleacher Report wrote that he had this advice for fellow injured athlete Derrick Rose:

“Listen to the doctors, the physical therapists. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. He has to attack his rehab and get himself going. That’s really the only way to be the player you used to be.”
In addition to aiding in recovery, physical therapy can be key to reducing a patient’s odds of developing knee osteoarthritis (OA). The risk of that condition increases four- to six-fold after a knee injury like an ACL or meniscus tear, and 50% of people who suffer ACL injuries will develop a form of OA within 10–15 years.2, 3 Fortunately, this risk may be mitigated with neuromuscular exercise therapy provided by a physical therapist. PT scan also help prevent knee injuries altogether with neuromuscular training and education.

2019 focuspt headshot julian

Julian Manrique

Focus Physical Therapy

"We Help Adults Get Back To Their Normal Active Lifestyles Naturally...While Avoiding Medications, Injections, And Surgeries"