Anterior cruciate ligament injuries in wakeboarding: prevalence and observations on injury mechanism

Sports Health. 2012 Jul;4(4):328-32. doi: 10.1177/1941738112443364.


Background: Wakeboarding is an increasingly popular sport that involves aggressive stunts with high risk for lower extremity injury, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture. Little has been reported on prevalence or mechanism of ACL injury while wakeboarding.

Hypothesis: The prevalence of ACL injury in wakeboarding approaches that of other high-risk sports. Analyzing the mechanism of ACL injury may aid in future efforts of prevention.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Methods: In sum, 1580 surveys were sent internationally to professional and amateur wakeboarders. The survey questioned the participants on their history of an ACL tear while wakeboarding and asked them to describe the mechanism of injury and treatment.

Results: A total of 123 surveys were returned. Of this group, 52 (42.3%) acknowledged having had an ACL tear while wakeboarding. The majority described feeling a pop or buckle after attempting to land a high jump. Only 5 participants (13.5%) described a rotational mechanism created by catching the board edge in the water. Thirty-seven participants (71.15%) said that the injury ruined their ability to wakeboard before reconstruction, and 41 (78.85%) had the injury repaired surgically.

Conclusion: The prevalence of ACL tears in this data set, 42.3%, is the highest reported in the literature for wakeboarding and one of the highest for any sport. The main mechanism of injury appears to involve axial compression while one lands in a provocative position; it is not related to a rotational force created by fixed bindings. The injury should be surgically repaired to effectively continue the sport. Further study is needed to determine if wakeboarding represents a high-risk sport for ACL injury.

Clinical significance: Wakeboarding may be a high-risk sport for ACL injury. Noncontact axial compression appears to be the main mechanism of injury.