What is an ACL Tear?

A tight end for the Greensburg Salem High School Golden Lions, Kenny Clark lined up for a play under the Friday night lights. What happened next would lead to a series of events that would ultimately inspire a career.

“After the ball was snapped, I planted my left leg to step forward with my right foot but was immediately grabbed by an opponent,” he explains. “As I fell to the side, I could feel my knee tear.”

UPMC Sports Medicine’s Mike States, a certified athletic trainer and the team’s athletic trainer,  rushed to Kenny’s side. Using the Lachman test, he determined that the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL in Kenny’s left knee was loose and might require surgery.

Learn more about the ACL Injury Prevention Program at UPMC Sports Medicine. 

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The Path to UPMC

Volker Musahl, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and medical director at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, was in the midst of a research study on patients with ACL tears. Kenny, who wanted to pursue a career in medicine, contacted Dr. Musahl in hopes of becoming part of that study.

Further testing revealed that Kenny also had torn the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and meniscus, making him ineligible for the study. “I wasn’t able to be part of the study, but I ended up having Dr. Musahl, a phenomenal doctor, as my orthopaedic surgeon,” Kenny says.

Within two weeks after surgery, Kenny started physical therapy at a rehabilitation center close to his home. Two to three times a week, he worked on regaining strength in his left knee. To help Kenny prepare for his senior year of football, cutting and agility exercises were slowly added to his physical therapy regimen. At school, Mike States worked with Kenny on exercises to continue his rehabilitation.

RELATED: 8 Tips on Preventing ACL Injury

Deja Vu: Another ACL Injury

Then it happened again. Nearly a year after his first injury, Kenny injured his right knee.

“I was playing tight end and went to block my opponent who pushed against my right leg,” says Kenny. “I was in so much pain that I knew immediately it had happened again.”

Imaging tests and a followup appointment with Dr. Musahl showed that Kenny had torn his ACL, MCL, poster cruciate (PC) ligament, and meniscus. Due to the severity of the MCL injury, Dr. Musahl immediately scheduled surgery to repair it. Two months later, Kenny had surgery on the torn ACL.

“Before he operated, Dr. Musahl took the time to really explain the ACL and MCL procedures. While I may have not completely understood what was happening, I appreciate that he took the time to tell me what he was going to do to help me,” adds Kenny.

Inspired by His Care

Kenny graduated from Washington and Jefferson College with a degree in biochemistry, Intent on pursuing a career in medicine, four years after the second knee injury, Kenny returned to UPMC Sports Medicine as a college intern in orthopaedics.

Dr. Musahl and UPMC Sports Medicine staff not only helped him heal from significant sports related injuries, they also strengthened his resolve to pursue a career in orthopaedic surgery. “At UPMC Sports Medicine, you get top of the line care and a full experience you are not going to regret,” says Kenny. “Everyone who works here — surgeons, physician assistants, and physical therapists — are phenomenal and provide top notch care.”




About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.