Former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones had surgery in 2010 to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, and then returned to baseball the following spring for his 18th season.
The ACL is one of the main ligaments of the knee, connecting the thigh and shinbone. When torn, the knee usually becomes unstable. These tears can lead to injury in other structures within the knee that cushion its bony surfaces. In the long term, the knee often develops osteoarthritis.
Jones injured his knee while fielding a ground ball. It was the second time Jones tore the ACL in his left knee. In 1994, he missed the entire season after the injury.
Jones, 38 at the teime, is statistically one of the three greatest switch hitters in baseball.
Orthopaedic surgeon David Apple, MD, formerly a team doctor with the Atlanta Hawks and now medical director emeritus at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, said torn ACLs almost always result in some issues down the road.
“To a greater or lesser degree, it’s probably 100 percent of the time that the person will have some issues with osteoarthritis,” Dr. Apple said. “It may not manifest for years, and if it is repaired well, and the knee is stabilized, it could be minimal. And I know Chipper will be seeing someone who is one of the best there is, so it’ll be done well.
“But I still do impairment evaluation for the NFL and if I see X-rays of a player who had a torn ACL 10 years ago, and one who has not, I can tell which one had been injured. Even in the best of hands, there will be changes over the years.”
Apple said repairing the torn ACL is always the thing to do for a professional athlete.
On the off-chance that Jones can’t make it back from the surgery, he says he is more than content with the career he’s had: “I can look in the mirror and be very proud. When I was growing up I wanted to be mentioned with two people: [switch-hitting Hall-of-Famers] Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. And I think it's safe to say that I've achieved that. There's really nothing else that I can do in this game individually that I haven't already done.”