ACL tear more common in female athletes


The dreaded ACL injury is almost twice as common in high school female athletes compared to men. A local basketball star knows all about it, and she's anxious to get back in the game.

It's been a frustrating year for Eastern Howard's power forward Taylor Holliday. The high school junior wants more playing time to land a college scholarship. But a bad landing after a rebound now has her in rehab instead.

The injury was caught on tape. Holliday moved in for the rebound and landed awkwardly, crumbling to the court.

"I cannot watch it at all. I get flashbacks and I can't do it. I start crying and get sweaty. I show other people and I am like, 'okay, here you go. You can watch it but I am not going to,'" she said.

The 17-year-old junior is now in rehab after surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, one of four tendons or stretchable fibers that holds the bones together in the knee.

"The pain was unbelievable. I felt it pop and I blacked out and I don't remember hitting the floor. I threw up a little bit and I was screaming," she said.

Dr. Donald Shelbourne with the Shelbourne Knee Center says he's performed more than 6,000 ACL surgeries, many Like Taylor's, where he took a tendon from her uninjured knee to make the repair.

"We took a ten-millimeter piece of her patellar tendon and used that to reconstruct her anterior cruciate ligament," he said.

The injury typically happens when the knee is torqued. It can cause the ACL to tear or pop. Shelbourne says the smaller the ligament,the more likely it is to tear. For this injury, the female anatomy more often puts women at risk.

"Unfortunately females in general have much smaller ACLs than males," said Dr. Shelbourne.

Shelbourne says 80 percent of the ACL injuries occur during games, and youth sports today supply an increasing patient load.

"Soccer is year-round. Now volleyball is year-round. The kids are starting younger. The kids are competing more. The kids are getting bigger, stronger, faster. It's inevitable that there are gong to be more injuries," he said.

Now six months after the injury, Taylor's right injured knee is within five degrees of the bend to her left. The straightening is the same, but the left knee where the graft came from is about 20 percent weaker than the other.

"It's amazing how fast I have recovered," she said.

The goal now is playing with her high school team by mid-season and get ready for recruitment.

"I would like to play for IUPUI. It is one of my top choices," said Taylor.

Shelbourne Knee Center