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Horrific Knee Injury

Jack Willis Knee Injury

Six Nations: England vs Italy - 13th February 2021

Anyone watching the England vs Italy, Six Nations match on Saturday would have cringed at the site of Jack Willis sustaining a massive knee injury.

Minutes after scoring a try, England flanker Jack Willis was stretchered off with what looks a serious knee injury. How was the injury sustained, how bad is his injury and how long will his recovery take?

Willis sustained his injury after he was turned at a ruck, his leg was forced into an unnatural “valgus” direction which would have almost certainly damaged his Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). However, looking at images, it is very possible that he would have sustained an injury to other ligaments around the knee, including his cruciate ligaments (Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) & Posterior Cruciate ligament (PCL)).

Often meniscus cartilage is also torn during these injuries.

Knee ligament injuries are very common in modern rugby, especially as players have become faster and stronger. Unfortunately Jack Willis is no stranger to knee injuries, having previously sustained an ACL tear, in 2018. The most commonly injured ligaments are the ACL and MCL.

How bad is the injury?

It is important that the a thorough history is taken about the injury. The mechanism of injury would give big clues to doctors treating Jack as to which parts of the knee would be injured. Often video footage of the event is very useful. Examination of the knee also gives many clues as to which structures have been injured, doctors would careful assess the integrity of each ligament in turn. Finally modern MRI scanners are very accurate at assessing for injuries to structures around the knee, including ligaments and meniscus cartilage.

How are ligament injuries treated?

Isolated MCL injuries very often heal by themselves and don’t always require surgery; though they would require treatment in a knee brace and an extensive period of rehabilitation before being fit to return to sport. In professional athletes ACL injuries often do require surgery; the aim of surgery being to restore stability to the knee, required for high speed changes of direction and pivoting.

How are meniscal injuries treated?

Where possible an early repair of a torn meniscus can give the best long term outcomes and this is often done at the same time as other ligament surgery. However, not all meniscus tears can be repaired, in which case they are trimmed.

How long does it take to recover from ligament injuries?

Depending on the extent of the injury and amount of treatment required, professional athletes can be looking at an absolute minimum of 9 months before they return to sport, but very often for significantly longer.


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