Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ACLs Revisited

A couple of months ago I wrote a post (mostly in jest) about how the knee is clearly a flawed prototype that clearly didn't go through beta testing. Or perhaps we are in the beta testing phase of knee development and once all of the kinds are worked out, we will be replaced by a race of super knee people. It totally could happen.

Well, it seems that the folks over at Slate read this blog (or at least I'd like to imagine that they do) and agree--there's something wrong with our knees, specifically our ACLs. They are simply not up to snuff and simply weren't built to do the higher level athletics we demand from them.

Because we weren't built to leap and cut. The cruciate ligaments are located inside the knee joint, connecting the underside of the femur to the top of the tibia. The anterior cruciate ligament's main duty is to prevent the tibia from sliding in front of the femur and out of joint. The dynamic forces created by leaping and cutting side-to-side tend to stress the ACL by pushing the tibia out of position.
That doesn't sound promising for gymnasts who probably stress the ACL more than most other athletes. The article posits several possible causes for our disproportionately weaker ACLs, including our relatively rapid shift to bipedalism around 6 million years ago. If only simian ancestors knew that in the future their descendants would be doing triple twisting somersaults then maybe they would've taken their sweet time going from all fours to walking upright. What can you say? Hindsight is 20/20.

And Bad News Bears for women--"Torn ACLs seem to discriminate by gender: Women athletes are four to eight times more likely to suffer the injury than men who play the same sport."

Here's a video of ACL victim, 2010 world champion Aliya Mustafina on the mend:

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