The anterior cruciate ligament – much better known as the ACL – is found in the center of the knee and connects the thigh bone to your shinbone. An ACL injury most often involves a strain, partial tear, or full rupture of this ligament.
If you suspect an injury to your ACL or any other area of your knee, do not hesitate to reach out to us quickly for advice, accurate diagnosis, and professional care. The sooner that an ACL injury or any related problem is properly addressed, the faster you can find relief and the lower your chances of complications arising in the future.
What Are the Symptoms of an ACL Injury?
The signs of an ACL injury may vary depending on the specific type, location, and severity of the problem. General symptoms can include:
- A “pop” (felt and/or heard) in the knee at the time of injury
- Severe pain
- Reduced range of motion
- Instability in the knee
- Rapid swelling at the site of injury (within 24 hours)
Remember that all symptoms may not be present in your case.
Additionally, the ability to walk does not necessarily mean your knee is all right. It can still be possible to walk even if you have torn your ACL, but you absolutely should avoid moving and bearing weight on the injury as much as possible until you can receive proper diagnosis and care.
How Do ACL Injuries Happen?
Most ACL injuries happen during intense sports or activities, especially when sudden twists or changes of direction or speed are involved. This includes circumstances such as:
- A rapid pivot or change in direction
- A sudden stop or great reduction in speed while running
- Landing poorly from a jump
- A direct collision of the knee with something (or something with the knee)
Sports such as basketball, tennis, soccer, football, and skiing can increase one’s likelihood of experiencing an ACL injury.
Treating an ACL Injury
Treatments for an ACL injury can be conservative or surgical. The best treatment approach will largely depend on the type of injury (sprain, tear, or rupture), its severity, and the needs and personal goals of the patient.
What do we mean by needs and personal goals? A young athlete or someone who is heavily invested in their sports might benefit most from surgery to make an optimal return to activity. Someone who is not as dependent on high activity for their happiness and livelihood may benefit more from a conservative approach that focuses more on symptom management.
When you come to see us, we will first perform a thorough physical examination. This can often tell us most of what we need to know, but we might also need to have an imaging test to confirm the diagnosis and get a better look at the severity of the damage.
We will then discuss with you our recommended options for treatment.
Conservative Treatment Options
Non-surgical options for treatment may include:
- Standard RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) therapy
- Physical therapy
- Bracing, to increase stability of the knee
- Crutches and other equipment to reduce weight bearing on the knee
The goals of these treatments is to reduce pain and swelling, restore range of motion, and strengthen and condition tissues against further injury. Conservative forms of treatment will not heal a torn ACL, but can still be effective in less severe cases.
Surgical Treatment Options
Surgical options will largely rely on the nature of the injury.
If the ACL is torn, surgical repair will often require reconstruction of the ligament. This may require the use of a tissue graft, which can be obtained from several sources. The patellar tendon, hamstring tendons, and quadriceps tendons may be used for grafts, and in some cases a graft can be obtained from a cadaver.
We will fully discuss the pros and cons of all grafting choices with you, and answer any and all questions you may have before you make any decision on whether to move forward with a procedure.
Typical post-operative expectations with ligament reconstruction are relatively long. It may take 6 months or more before an athlete returns to sports activity. It is critically important to follow rehabilitative therapies and instructions during this time for best results and to help reduce the risk of further injuries.
Ace Your ACL Treatment
An ACL injury can require a lengthy period of care, but we are here to help all our patients get back to the activities they love as quickly and safely as possible.
Schedule an appointment at our Roseville or Carmichael offices by calling (916) 961-3434 or by clicking the “Contact Us!” button below.
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