Monday Medical: ACL information event is this month |

Monday Medical: ACL information event is this month

Riley Polumbus/For the Steamboat Today

— A few years ago, I twisted my knee while skiing in the aspen trees known as "Twistercane." As I waited for Steamboat Ski Patrol, my friend told me to stay positive.

"It might be nothing," she said encouragingly.

But I knew: I had torn my anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

Admiring the beauty of sunshine peeking through the trees, I thought to myself: "Well, considering how active I am, this was bound to happen sooner or later," and accepted it as a matter of chance.

My rationale seemed right on. I had one of seven knee injuries that were treated at Yampa Valley Medical Center's emergency department that afternoon.

Once I was officially diagnosed with a complete ACL tear, the "experts" began to come out of the woodwork. Friends and friends of friends all told me stories about their experience. It seemed I had just joined a club.

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"The incidence of ACL tears in this community is almost epidemic compared to the average U.S. community," said Steamboat Springs orthopaedic surgeon Eric Verploeg, M.D. "Well over 100 locals have their ACL repaired at YVMC each year."

Dr. Verploeg will give a free Taking Care of Me talk about ACL tears next week. Titled, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About ACL Tears but Were Afraid to Ask," his presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in YVMC's Conference Center.

In addition to repairing ACLs in Ski Town USA for more than 20 years, Verploeg spent six months doing a fellowship with Dr. Richard Steadman, of the Steadman Clinic in South Lake Tahoe in 1988.

The ACL, often referred to as the crucial ligament, is located inside the knee. It stabilizes the knee during movements such as pivoting and sharp turns, and when landing from a jump. Individuals who sustain an ACL injury complain of their knee "giving out" under them.

Verploeg said the risk of an ACL tear in females is three to four times greater than males, and that two-thirds of all ACL tears are sports-related. The majority of those injuries are non-contact, meaning they occur without the contact of another athlete.

ACL tears commonly occur in field and court sports such as soccer, football, volleyball and basketball, as well as in skiing and snowboarding. The majority of tears occur to people ages 15 and 29.

Most athletes who tear their ACL will opt for surgery to repair or replace the ligament and enable them to maintain their active lifestyle.

"Failure to reconstruct an ACL usually leads to both an inability to satisfactorily participate in vigorous activities as well as gradual deterioration of the knee," Verploeg said.

Even for those not participating in these active sports, the ACL plays a key role in supporting the knee in everyday tasks such as running down stairs or making a quick pivot when you've forgotten something.

If you have questions about the ACL, next week's free program will offer an opportunity to get them answered. Verploeg will explain the anatomy and physiology of the knee, as well as treatments and what happens when not treated. He also will discuss incidents of re-rupture.

Last year, nearly 11 percent of all ski injuries in YVMC's Emergency Department were diagnosed as ACL tears. Even if you are not in the club, chances are good you or someone you know may be joining soon.

Come and learn more about the ACL from a genuine expert.

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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