By Angela Reese
March 20, 2019
ACL tears frequently occur during the football playing years and may have important implications for long-term health. Below, you will find our early research results on the potential consequences of ACL injury, along with some action steps to help you be proactive about your health.
What the Science Says
Our analysis of 3,500 former players indicates that those who sustained ACL tears may be at an increased risk for health problems later in life. Specifically, ACL injury and repair may:
- Increase a player’s risk of heart attack by as much as 50%
- Double the likelihood of knee replacement surgery
- Raise arthritis risk by 50%
While we expected to find strong associations between ACL tears and long-term joint health (knee replacement surgery and arthritis), the potential relationship between ACL injury and heart health is much more surprising. Although this finding requires further study to be confirmed, former players can still use this information to be proactive about their health now.
Potential Action Steps
Heart health is something all former players should prioritize, regardless of whether or not they have sustained an ACL injury. Below are some joint-friendly tips for maintaining and improving your heart health:
- Ask your physician to recommend specific exercises and lifestyle choices known to provide cardiovascular benefit while limiting wear and tear on your joints – for example, swimming, water aerobics, and biking.
- Talk with your doctor about your heart disease risk profile. This will provide you with personalized information on the factors most likely to impact your heart health (cholesterol levels, blood pressure, family history, etc.) and allow you to better target your efforts to maintain it.
Below are external resources that may help you be proactive about your heart health. The Trust and Living Heart Foundation provide medical evaluations to former players, while the American Heart Association is a reliable source of information on specific heart health topics and healthy lifestyle choices.
Our Research Priorities
Our research continues to prioritize joint and heart health as top concerns. We are funding cutting edge ACL repair research that has the potential to eliminate reconstruction-related osteoarthritis, as well as innovative techniques for osteoarthritis relief. We also have several projects focused on heart health, including our Health and Wellness Initiative (Q1 and Q2) and our upcoming In-Person Assessment Study, which will bring former players to Boston for head-to-toe evaluations at Harvard hospitals.
If you have questions about the information above or would like to learn more about the Study, please call us (617.432.5000) or email us.