A cruciate ligament injury is often a shock diagnosis, and usually means half a season out. Hertha physio Michael Becker explains what causes the injury and what can be done to treat it.
How does a ruptured cruciate ligament come about?
A cruciate ligament often ruptures in situations where, looking in from the outside, you wouldn’t expect it to happen - often without contact. All of the ruptured cruciate ligaments that we’ve had here have been without contact. Often it’s due to bad positioning, a twist, wrong footwear, dry grass or a bad surface. Sometimes an unfavourable posture is the cause- for example, asymmetry in the body, whereby the right and left side cannot be worked equally.
How do you recognise a ruptured cruciate ligament?
A ruptured cruciate ligament can be recognised due to limited mobility. Pain is also a common symptom, sometimes in the hollow of the knee. That can vary in from case to case though – some players can walk to the changing room, whereas others have to be carried off the pitch. Every case is different and the diagnosis is decisive. The first stage of that is an MRI.
How do you treat a ruptured cruciate ligament?
For professional players there is no conservative option – that means an operation is essential. This is because the knee must be stable in order to avoid further complications in the knee that could arise as a result of other injuries in the future. That can’t be achieved with a conservative method, so surgery is needed.
How serious is a ruptured cruciate ligament for a footballer’s career?
Nowadays it is no longer career ending. However, a player must do their bit too. We follow a four-step plan, called Return to Competition. To begin with, a player will receive physiotherapy, followed by a combination of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, and then a return to sport. The final step is returning to the pitch and we monitor everything. The full return to playing depends on the player and the severity of the rupture. As a general rule, a player will be out for between eight and ten months.