What to Do When You Tear an ACL
Tearing your anterior cruciate ligament can be one of the most painful and significant knee injuries you can experience. ACL injuries are particularly common in athletics, because athletes put tremendous strain on their knees.
The ACL is one of four ligaments in the knee, and it helps to limit the mobility of the knee in order to provide better stability. Recovery from ACL injuries can be a long process, so it helps to know how to assess the extent of an injury and what to do in the event that you tear your ACL.
How to Know if You Have a Torn ACL
Most ACL injuries occur during sports events, although they occur in different situations than many people think. Rather than occurring as a result of contact with another player, four
out of five ACL tears occur when an individual pivots or turns suddenly and their knee gives out from under them.
People suffering ACL tears frequently hear a loud popping noise. Even without the sound, the knee
will feel different, as the joint shifts in the absence of this ligament.
Signs of an ACL tear include instability, swelling, and pain. Instability is typically significant among athletes, as sudden changes in movement make the injured person most susceptible to instability. Pain can vary when injuries occur, and much of it comes about as a result of the swelling in the knee, which can be very significant and sudden.
MRI examinations can determine whether the ACL has been torn, but other tests can be effective in identifying this injury too. Orthopedic doctors examine the knee by shifting the leg and moving the tibia forward to feel if there are abnormalities in the knee.
ACL reconstructive surgery involves combining tissues from the patellar tendon or hamstring tendon, or tissue donated from a cadaver to create a new ACL for the injured person. These surgeries have various pros and cons, with each varying in terms of their effectiveness and the lasting effects of the surgery.
In general, not everybody needs surgery following an ACL tear. People who want to return to high-level sports do require surgery, as knee stability is vital for athletic performance. In addition, those suffering high levels of pain or instability frequently turn to surgery as an option. Surgery generally protects the individual from further damage and results in fairly normal functionality in the knee.
The downside to surgery is that it is not totally effective, and many people can function normally without having ACL surgery. Even for those who are very active, sports like running, cycling, and rowing do not generally require surgery. Non-operative therapy is also an option, and those who feel their therapy has been unsuccessful can opt for surgery in the future.
The downside to not having surgery is the potential for further knee damage. Each time a person experiences instability, the joints rub in a way that causes damage and leads to the early onset of symptoms of arthritis.
If you are an athlete and want to lear more about ACL tears and other Sports Medicine injuries, feel free to visit our Sports Medicine Section.
Surgeon’s Advice | Leon Mead MD Orthopedic Doctor | 730 Goodlette Road North, Suite 201 Naples Florida 34102 | Phone: (239) 262-1119