Pat’s Wes Welker has Injured Knee-UPDATED

New England Patriot’s receiver Wes Welker sustained a knee injury today in the first quarter of a game against the Texans in Houston. Welker had just caught a pass from quarterback Tom Brady, when his left knee seemed to buckle under him. Although he limped off the field with assistance, he was later taken out to the locker room on a cart. Although the exact nature of the injury was not released, the Patriots have stated that Welker will be out for the rest of the season.

To see a video of the injury, click here.

The knee is essentially a modified hinge joint located where the end of the thigh bone (femur) meets the top of the shin bone(tibia). Four main ligaments connect these two bones:

  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL) — runs along the inner part of the knee and prevents the knee from bending inward.
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) — runs along the outer part of the knee and prevents the knee from bending outward.
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — lies in the middle of the knee. It prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur,and provides rotational stability to the knee.
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) — works with the ACL. It prevents the tibia from sliding backwards under the femur.

The ACL and PCL cross each other inside the knee, forming an “X.”

Knee Joint

The ACL is the most common ligament injured in a knee. It can be torn when a twisting force is applied to the knee while the foot is firmly planted on the ground or upon landing, or from a direct blow to the knee, usually to the outside of the knee, as may occur during a football tackle.The medial or lateral collateral ligaments can also be sprained or torn by uneven forces across the knee joint. In addition to the ligaments,  injuries can cause damage to the lateral and medial menisci- the cartilage pads that cushion the knee.

As with most such injuries, care immediately after the injury consists of RICE therapy-
Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Medical attention should be sought to thoroughly evaluate the injury. If the injury is mild, conservative management including immobilization with a knee brace and physical therapy may suffice. If ligaments or menisci are torn, surgery may be required to repair or replace the ligaments.

Resounding
Health(tm)
Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

UPDATE: 1/4/10

It has been reported that Welker has torn both his ACL and MCL ligaments.  This is a serious injury. When the ACL ligament is badly torn, it is not “repaired”- it has to be replaced, usually by a substitute graft made of tendon. The tendon can be  taken from the patient’s own patella, hamstring or quadriceps tendon, or from a cadaver tendon. Patients treated with surgical reconstruction of the ACL have long-term success rates of 82 percent to 95 percent. Recovery from such an injury will take many months, up to as much as a year.

For an article about ACL repair, click here.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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