The knee has several important ligaments, which are thick cords of tissue that connect the bones to each other. These ligaments can be injured in sports, work, recreation, or even everyday activities. Some ligaments may heal on their own with appropriate braces. Other ligament injuries, however, usually require surgical repair or reconstruction. Dr. Bushnell maintains an active interest in ligament surgery since his training at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Denver, a busy ligament reconstruction center where he was also able to publish research about ligament injuries in professional athletes.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most commonly torn ligament in the knee. It usually tears from a twisting and/or hyperextension injury. It is more common in younger patients and in female athletes, but it can affect patients of any age and activity level. Once torn, the ACL usually requires surgical reconstruction. Various surgical techniques exist to reconstruct the ACL, and Dr. Bushnell has training and experience in all of the major methods of ACL reconstruction. He has performed ACL surgery on patients as young as 11 years old and as old as 63. He meets with each patient individually to discuss the most ideal choice of reconstruction technique, based on each patient’s age, activity level, athletic goals, and other factors.
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The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the second-most commonly torn ligament in the knee. It stabilizes the knee from side to side and is located on the inner side of the knee. Injury to the MCL is very common in contact sports in which athletes are tackled or impacted from the side. A tear of the MCL is usually treated without surgery, using a hinged brace to protect the joint while the ligament heals.
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The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is another major ligament in the knee that can frequently be torn in athletic or recreational activities. The injury usually occurs when a person falls and strikes the front of their knee hard against the ground or another object. While this injury may occasionally need surgery, it can usually be managed with an appropriate brace.
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The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) also stabilizes the knee from side to side, just like the MCL, but the LCL is located on the outer side of the knee. Isolated injuries to the LCL usually do not need surgery, but often they are part of a more complicated injury to the knee involving more than one ligament. Dr. Bushnell has published research about LCL injuries in professional football players.
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The medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) stabilizes the kneecap and keeps it from slipping out to the side. When an injury results in a full patella dislocation, the MPFL can be torn. In some cases, the tear of the MPFL can be treated successfully with a brace. In other situations, the MPFL must be repaired or reconstructed. In association with his partner, Dr. Piller, Dr. Bushnell has developed a minimally-invasive technique for MPFL reconstruction that has had great success.
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