US Women’s National Team and Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe suffered a right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear during training camp in Honolulu, HI on December 4th. Rapinoe is no stranger to the dreaded ACL tear as she sustained two separate ACL injuries to her left knee in college. Fortunately, those injuries did not affect her ultimate success as she went on to become a star for the US WNT, playing in 113 games, scoring 31 goals and helping lead the team to a 2015 World Cup Championship.
ACL tears require surgical repair in elite athletes, particularly those competing in pivoting sports. Repair re-stabilizes the knee and prevents excessive stress on the meniscal cartilage. Rapinoe underwent surgery on December 12. Fortunately, 65-88% of athletes return to their sport within a year. Unfortunately, Olympic qualifiers are in February 2016 and the Olympic Games in Rio begin in August 2016. Typically, full recovery from an ACL rupture takes 12 months; however, earlier returns have been seen in professional athletes. NFL receiver Wes Welker returned after 9 months after a 2010 ACL tear. Risks of premature return to play include pain, swelling and reinjury. According to tissue healing models, the ACL is at approximately 50% of full strength 6 months after surgery. Rapinoe may attempt to return for the 2016 games, but we at MD Injury Report predict she won’t be back to full strength until December 2016.