What Happens When You have an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear and What are the Proper Methods to Treat it?

 

What is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is just one of four main ligaments that are located in the knee. This ligament prevents movement of the shin bone forward relative to the thigh bone, but unfortunately is a common knee injury among athletes and active individuals.

An ACL tear or sprain will occur when direction of the body suddenly changes and the knee is locked in place. Typically, a pop sound will occur and then swelling and pain begins almost immediately. A complete ACL tear usually requires surgery while other times it can recover on its own if it is a minor or partial tear.

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What Are the Non-Surgical Options? 

If a partial tear or sprain has occurred, it can be helped with rest, use of knee braces and physiotherapy. Sometimes if the problem persists, surgeries such as ACL repair or reconstruction can help with this condition. Depending on the age of the patient and their level of activity, this will determine whether or not orthopaedic surgery is necessary.

What are the Orthopaedic Surgical Options?

If there is a complete tear of the ACL, a surgical option such as ACL arthroscopic reconstruction should be considered. While surgery is not always necessary for an ACL Tear, most injuries will require surgical intervention. The purpose of an ACL reconstruction procedure is to restore stability of the knee. Without long-term stability of the knee, it can lead to weakening of other muscles in the knee and leg. It may cause arthritis and meniscus tears due to misusing the knee and putting weight on the wrong areas of the knee joint.

ACL Repair versus Reconstruction-

ACL Repair: When a repair of the ACL takes place this involves a surgeon suturing the torn ends of the ligament back together again.

ACL Reconstruction: ACL Reconstruction has become a far more popular procedure as it is more effective for complete tears. Part of the hamstring tendon will be harvested from either the patient or a donor and is then used to replace the torn ACL.

While there are different options available when it comes to an injury of the anterior cruciate ligament, it is often recommended that some sort of treatment takes place in order to bring back stability in this region. This is especially true in active individuals and athletes as this could result in further damage to the knee if this injury is not taken care of properly. For most patients who receive treatment, activity and normal life can begin again approximately six to nine months after reconstruction or treatment.