An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) most commonly occurs in high demand sports – football, soccer, basketball to name a few – that involves sudden stops, jumping or changes in direction. Depending on the severity of the ACL injury as well as your desired level of activity, surgery may be necessary in order to restore full function of the knee.
What causes it?
An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament may result from either direct contact to the knee or non-contact planting and pivoting with bending of the knee.
How do you know you have it?
You might hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when you injure your ACL; your knee may also give out. Typical symptoms include:
- Pain, often severe
- Rapid swelling
- Range of motion reduction and knee tightness
- Instability with weight bearing
How we fix it
OSI knee specialists are here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine all structures of the knee joint to determine if there is damage to the ACL. Under our expert care, the following can determine the best course of treatment:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will begin with a consultation to understand your symptoms and medical history, followed by a full physical examination. Many injuries to the ACL can be diagnosed at this stage.
- Imaging: An X-ray does not reveal the soft tissue damage of an ACL but can identify a fracture connected to the tear. An MRI is typically not needed to confirm the presence of a torn ACL.
For those with a lower activity level, nonsurgical treatments may prove beneficial; however, a torn ACL does not heal without surgery. Conservative treatment approaches include:
- Bracing to stabilize the knee joint
- Physical therapy to restore function
Due to a limited blood supply, the ACL can’t be repaired or stitched together. Surgical treatment (arthroscopy) requires reconstruction of the ligament using a graft that is secured to the thigh and lower leg bones, which then heals over the following months to become the anterior cruciate ligament. Any other injuries to the knee joint are treated arthroscopically at the same time. Expect a minimum of six months before an athlete can return to his or her sport.