The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a strong band of tissue connecting your thighbone and your shin bone (the femur and tibia, respectively). This ligament is essential for movement, particularly for those who play sports or are regularly active. Experiencing an ACL tear can make it difficult or impossible to perform simple tasks like walking.
ACL tears are most commonly experienced in activities that involve sudden shifting movements, such as basketball, football, and soccer. When a tear occurs, many patients report hearing a popping sound or feeling a popping sensation within the knee.
Other common ACL tear symptoms include:
- Immediate and severe pain in the knee
- The inability to walk or bear weight on the knee
- A sensation of the knee failing or “giving out”
- Rapid swelling in the knee
If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is crucial to consult a specialist immediately. The quicker you can begin treatment for your ACL tear, the more likely it is that you will reach a full recovery with no future pain.
To diagnose an ACL tear, your doctor will begin with a physical exam. They will examine the knee for signs of tenderness and swelling, and they will likely assess your overall joint function. Additionally, your doctor may recommend an X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound to verify the diagnosis, although ACL tears are widely diagnosed on the physical exam alone.
As mentioned, ACL tears are commonly experienced during intense physical activities, putting athletes at an increased risk. Other risk factors include being assigned female at birth, using inefficient movement patterns, playing sports on artificial turf, and wearing poorly fitting footwear during physical activities.
ACL Tear Treatment
ACL tear recovery time can vary from case to case. Your recovery time will likely depend on the severity of the tear, your age and daily activity level, and a number of other factors. However, in the majority of cases, patients recover from ACL tears within a period of six to nine months after the injury. Athletes will likely be told to refrain from playing their sport until the ACL injury is fully healed.
There are several methods of ACL tear treatment that you can undergo at home. One such method is the R.I.C.E. model: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The use of over-the-counter pain relievers may also be helpful. Your doctor may also recommend the use of a knee brace to provide extra support.
ACL Tear Surgery
In some cases, knee surgery is the most promising treatment method for ACL tears. Surgery is most often recommended for athletes who wish to continue in their given sport, those who have injured multiple ligaments within the knee, or those who are experiencing consistent buckling in the knee throughout their daily activities. If your doctor believes surgery is right for you, they will explain the procedure and its risk factors in detail prior to the procedure.
During surgery, your doctor will remove the ligament that has been damaged, and it will be replaced with a graft. A graft is a replacement tissue that often contains a segment of tendon. This tendon may come from another part of your own knee, or it may be obtained from a deceased donor.
After your surgery, you will undergo a physical therapy regimen intended to help you regain strength, function, and mobility in the knee. Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global will acquaint you with our team of physical therapists at COG Restore for this portion of your ACL tear treatment. You, your doctor, and your physical therapist will work together to form a unique rehab schedule to get you back on your feet.
Why Choose Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global?
ACL tears are quite common, but they are incredibly impactful to those suffering. Several members of the team at Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global have undergone extensive training relating to the diagnosis and treatment of ACL tears, enabling them to create customized treatment methods for each individual patient.
To speak with an ACL tear specialist on our team here at Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global in St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, or the Virgin Islands, please request an appointment using our online portal or contact us via phone at (340) 779-2663.