ACL injury, recovery inspires athlete to new goals

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 10:33 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Morgan Carranza is pitching in to support her Washburn University soccer teammates in a new way this season.

She’s sharpening her skills as a student athletic trainer.

“I always grew up as an athlete and I feel like it’s a way to help athletes overcome their injuries because I know it’s not easy,” she said.

Carranza knows because she’s recovering from a torn ACL, suffered in a game last season.

“(I) just stepped wrong and planted wrong and tore my ACL,” she said.

Carranza isn’t alone. One side effect of the pandemic appears to be a rise in sports-related injuries. Orthopedic and sports medicine specialists say they noticed an uptick in young patients, as COVID-19 forced shortened training periods and altered seasons.

ACL tears are among the most common.

Cotton O’Neil Orthopedic Surgeon Brian Wilson says the ACL is a small ligament in the center of the knee that provides a lot of rotation control, as well as pivoting control back and forth. ACL injuries are more common in female athletes, and in sports with sudden direction changes, like football, basketball and soccer.

Wilson says protecting the ACL is mainly about technique. Most times, the injuries don’t involve any contact.

“It’s really about your landing position,” he said. “If you have unequal force against your knee with your quadricep, then your knee is at risk of hyper-extending.”

The hyper-extension can tear the ligament, and often leave a painful bone bruise as bone rubs on bones during the rotation. While surgical techniques to repair the tear have improved, the game plan for recovery remains the same.

“Recovery from ACL reconstruction has always been physical therapy, athletic trainers, get the knee moving, get your strength back, get your confidence back,” Wilson said.

Carranza is just starting to jog again. While she’s not in the game, she says she far from sidelined.

“I still get to be part of the team and be there with the team but also help them,” she said.

Not only that, she said she feels her experience will ultimately make her better at her end goal - when she launches her career as a certified athletic trainer.

“It’s a scary thought, not knowing what the future holds, but being able to talk to someone who’s been there, done that - it’s just a lot more comforting to yourself,” she said.

Athletes can expect recovery from a torn ACL to take six to nine months

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