A long shot

May
24
2013
by
Lynne McTaggart
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Last January after sustaining an injury to one knee during a particularly heated hockey match, our 16-year-old daughter Anya, a sports scholar, was handed the diagnosis most dreaded by athletes of any age: complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. The ACL, one of the crisscross ligaments attaching the knee cap to leg bones, is pivotal to any movement of the knee, and a complete tear such as Anya sustained can spell a death sentence for any future sports.

Last January after sustaining an injury to one knee during a particularly heated hockey match, our 16-year-old daughter Anya, a sports scholar, was handed the diagnosis most dreaded by athletes of any age: complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. The ACL, one of the crisscross ligaments attaching the knee cap to leg bones, is pivotal to any movement of the knee, and a complete tear such as Anya sustained can spell a death sentence for any future sports.

The standard treatment, we learned, is surgical reconstruction, which entails borrowing tissue from a tendon or hamstring, attaching this onto a bit of borrowed bone, refashioning something resembling an ACL ligament, and screwing this Frankenstein onto the thigh and shin bones. After the operation, the patient is on crutches for weeks and then undergoes some nine months of rehabilitation before getting back to normal play.

Both the surgeon and the physio we consulted were adamant that there was no other course open to us; just leaving well alone, for instance, would spell an almost certain end to her sports career, and lead to pain and arthritis in later life. ACLs, they argued, don’t just heal by themselves.

The thought of creating a faux ligament in such a crucial area in a child still growing didn’t ring true to me, so I began carrying out my own research.

It didn’t take long to discover that the received wisdom of medicine, as is so often the case, is wrong: ACLs often do heal by themselves. In one study of middle-aged skiers who’d suffered ACL ruptures but did not have surgery, all those tracked and evaluated two years were later found to have normal knee ligaments and were able to participate in all sports – including skiing.

Another study found that ACL ruptures not fixed surgically largely healed themselves within 18 months, as confirmed by MRI scans.

All this suggested to me some sort of self-healing mechanism, which should be supported rather than replaced by surgery.

As I was searching, I also discovered something called ‘prolotherapy’, which is little regarded by the mainstream but has been used in various circles for more than 50 years. More formally called ‘sclerosant therapy’, the treatment involves injecting an irritant like dextrose and phenol into damaged tendons or ligaments to ‘shock’ the body into high gear, so provoking a healing response that lays down new collagen and essentially rebuilds the injured connective soft tissue.

Although it’s been used for years to treat lax (floppy) tendons and ligaments and minor tears, a few musculoskeletal and sports-injury specialists have successfully used prolotherapy on cases of total ACL and Achilles tendon ruptures.

After seeking advice from specialists on both sides of the Atlantic, we located an experienced British consultant for Anya, who has just completed the last of seven sets of injections. I won’t pretend this was a walk in the park; she had to take gas and air while a giant needle was repeatedly stuck right into the various ligaments of the right knee, and after each session, her knee blew up again with an inflammatory response.

But all of the physical tests for both Anya’s knees are now normal, and she’s now ready for intensive physio. In a month’s time, I’ll take her for another MRI scan to confirm what all physical tests suggest: her ligament has healed itself, with the help of seven shots.

It’s always a tough call to ignore the advice of professionals, particularly when it comes to your children, and I spent a good many sleepless nights, wondering if I’d made the right choice. But as Anya’s case has shown, the intelligence of the body almost always outwits the most advanced and high-tech of medicine. All it needs sometimes is a little boost.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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