DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a high-school senior and play on our school’s girls’ varsity basketball team. It’s my life, and I would like to play college basketball. I twisted my knee and tore my anterior cruciate ligament. My knee swelled really bad. The doctor is going to decide if I need an operation in another week.

What does the anterior cruciate ligament do? What kind of operation fixes it? Will I be able to play basketball again? – J.A.

Ligaments are tough cords that hold joints in place. The anterior cruciate ligament is inside the knee, and it ties the upper leg bone, the femur, to the lower leg bone, the tibia. It keeps the knee from wobbling.

It’s the most commonly injured ligament in the body, and accounts for more than 100,000 injuries yearly in the United States. Most of those injuries are in young adults like you.

Females tear this ligament more often than males. That’s because of the slightly different anatomy of the female knee. You would think this is an injury that occurs mostly in contact sports like football, but that’s not the case. It happens mostly in sports where there are sudden accelerations and decelerations, and where cutting movements off to the side are important. Basketball is such a sport.

When the ligament tears, the player often hears a loud pop. The knee swells because the ligament tear often involves a tear of blood vessels in the knee.

A common operation for this injury is one in which a piece of tendon is used to reconstruct a new ligament. The tendon piece usually comes from the patient.

Not all anterior cruciate ligament tears require surgery. Your doctor wants to see how your knee functions when the swelling has gone down. For you, who want to continue your basketball career, an operation probably will be recommended.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 26 and pregnant for the first time. My husband and I are quite excited about this. All my life, I have been physically active and a dedicated exerciser. I plan to continue with my exercise program during pregnancy. My mother-in-law emphatically states that I could do myself and my baby great harm by exercising. She says physical activity is not recommended for pregnant women. Will you step in and give your opinion? – R.C.

Your mother-in-law is expressing a view that was once popular but no longer is. Exercise during pregnancy provides many benefits. It helps prevent gestational diabetes, diabetes that comes during pregnancy and leaves after delivery. Gestational diabetes can be detrimental to mother and baby.

It also prevents pre-eclampsia, a rise in blood pressure and loss of protein in the urine during pregnancy. Sometimes pre-eclampsia progresses to eclampsia – seizures, coma or both.

Moderate exercise is the level of exercise recommended during pregnancy. “Moderate” means that the exercise is equivalent to brisk walking at a pace of three to four miles an hour.

Pregnant women should not lie on their back to exercise after the first three months of pregnancy. In that position, the enlarging uterus can obstruct the return of blood to the heart. If you lift weights, you can continue doing so. Don’t lift very heavy loads. Increase your repetitions with lighter weights.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My physician says I have crepitus. My knees sound like Rice Krispies when I walk down stairs. Nothing hurts. I am 62, active, golf, bike and walk. Do I need to strengthen muscles around the knee? – A.

You’re doing enough exercise to strengthen leg muscles. Crepitus isn’t an illness. It’s a word that means “joint noises.” If you have no pain, the noises can best be treated by ignoring them.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: If I drink three beers and follow each beer with a glass of water, will I dilute the alcohol? Does this lessen the possibility of getting drunk? – R.W.

No, it doesn’t.

You’re drinking the same amount of alcohol.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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