Anterior Cruciate Ligament
An Anterior Cruciate Ligament, known as ACL, is one of the most common knee injuries among patients. The majority of ACL injuries occur when one pivots or sidesteps or lands awkwardly. Other ACL sprains or tears can happen through direct physical contact.
First, what is the ACL? Simply put, the knee has four primary ligaments that hold the three bones that form the knee joint. The ligaments help make the knee stable. The ACL is found in the front running diagonally through the knee providing rotational stability to the joint. It also prevents the tibia, or shin bone, from sliding out in front of the femur, or thighbone.
The ACL can either have a sprain or tear depending on the severity of the injury. About 50 percent of all ACL injuries see additional damage in the knee such as the meniscus, which is a part of the knee that acts as shock absorbers that help reduce stress on the thighbone and shin bone.
One type of injury is when the ACL is slightly stretched, but can still help keep the knee joint stable. Although rare, another injury is when the ACL can also become loose when stretched, which is referred to as a partial tear. The third and most common type of injury is when the ACL is split into two pieces causing the knee joint to become unstable.
Pain, swelling, loss of motion and tenderness are just some of the symptoms one may feel when the ACL is injured. During a physician examination, most ligament injuries can be identified. X-rays or an MRI may be used to identify additional damage to other areas of the knee.
Depending on the individual, his or her lifestyle, the severity of the injury, and a number of other factors, there are a number of treatment options available. Treatment ranges from physical therapy and using a brace to rebuilding the ACL through surgery. The nonsurgical treatments may include using a hinged knee brace combined with exercises. The surgical options vary, and the orthopaedic surgeon will discuss with you the surgical procedure for your individual situation.
After surgery focuses reducing knee swelling and maintaining and regaining mobility and range of motion for the knee. Strengthening the muscles and building endurance are other key focuses of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation process may take four to six months or longer.