An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate (KROO-she-ate) ligament (ACL). It is one of the major ligaments in your knee. Most commonly ACL injuries occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing — such as soccer, basketball, football and downhill skiing. Many people usually hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when an ACL injury occurs. Your knee may also swell, feel unstable and become too painful to bear any kind of weight.
Depending on the severity of your ACL injury, treatment may include rest and rehabilitation exercises for a few days to help you regain strength and stability or in some case surgery is also recommended to replace the torn ligament followed by rehabilitation. A proper training program may help and reduce the risk of an ACL injury.
Usually an ACL injury occurs when people hear a popping noise in their knee when they get hurt. But it doesn’t happen to everyone. Some of the common symptoms of ACL may include:
During your first visit to the doctor he/she will talk to you about your symptoms and medical history. The doctor will conduct a physical examination, where he/she will check all the structures of your injured knee, and compare them to your non-injured knee. Most ligament injuries can only be diagnosed with a thorough physical examination of the knee. Your doctor may also recommend other tests like X-rays and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan which may help to confirm your diagnosis.
The treatment of ACL injury depends on how badly you’ve been hurt. Here are some of the options that your doctor may give you:
First aid: If your injury is small and not very major, you may only need to put some ice on your knee, lift your leg, and stay off your feet for some time. You can lessen the swelling by wrapping an ace bandage around your knee. Crutches can also help to keep weight off your knee.
Medications: Your doctor will give some anti-inflammatory drugs that can help in reducing swelling and pain. Your doctor may also suggest over-the-counter medications or prescribe something stronger. For intense pain, your doctor might inject your knee with a steroid medication.
Knee brace: In some cases people with a damaged ACL can get by with wearing a brace on their knee when they do any activity like running or playing sports. It provides extra support.
Physical therapy: A physical therapy is needed for a few days or a week to get your knee back in working order. During your sessions, you will be asked to do exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee and help you regain a full range of motion. You may also be sent home with exercise to do on your own.
Surgery: Surgery is only recommended by the doctor if your ACL is torn badly, if your knee gives way when you’re walking, or if you’re an athlete you need to have a surgery to treat the torn ligament. In the surgery the surgeon will remove the damaged ACL and replace it with tissue to help a new ligament grow in its place. With the help of physical therapy, people who have surgery can often play sports again within 12 months.
If you have a surgery, you can resume another course of rehabilitative therapy. Successful ACL reconstruction paired with thorough rehabilitation can usually restore stability and function to your knee. There’s no particular time frame for athletes to return to play. According to the recent researches it indicates that up to one-third of athletes sustain another tear in the same or opposite knee within two years. A longer recovery period may lesser the risk of reinjury.
Usually, it takes as long as a year or more before athletes can safely return to back to their normal routine. Your doctor and physical therapists will conduct tests to check your knee’s strength, function, readiness and stability to return to sports activities at various intervals during your rehabilitation. It’s important to make sure that strength, stability and movement patterns are optimized before you return back to your normal activities with a risk for ACL injury.
There are a numeral factors that can increase your risk of an ACL injury, including