Your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the most important ligaments in your knee. The ACL runs through the center of the knee joint and provides rotational stability. In certain high-intensity activities, however, the ACL may become sprained or torn.
ACL Injury Causes
ACL injuries are common during physical activities involving sudden, explosive force on the knee. This includes popular sports like football, basketball and soccer. Participants in other high-intensity activities, such as weightlifting and crossfit, may also be at risk for ACL injuries.
- Common ACL injury causes include:
- Sudden pivot while running or sprinting
- Sudden stops while running or sprinting
- Awkward landing after jumping
ACL Injury Symptoms
An ACL injury is usually accompanied with a audible “pop” sound. The patient may lose feeling in the knee, or feel like their knee is unable to bear weight. Swelling, severe pain and loss of motion around the knee are also common symptoms of an ACL injury. Patients may see the swelling go down and attempt physical activity, only for the knee pain to return.
ACL Injury Treatment
We begin all ACL injury treatments with a diagnosis Dr. Melander will review your medical history, X-rays and perform a physical examination. If necessary, an MRI will be used to determine if the ACL is torn. Although some turn out to be tears, the majority of ACL injuries result in a torn ACL.
In order to restore the ACL and return the patient to full mobility, Dr. Melander will typically perform an ACL reconstruction by grafting ligaments from other parts of the body. Dr. Melander will often recommend an autograft procedure, as it provides greater stability to the knee and lowers the risk of re-rupture.
Dr. Melander may also recommend an allograft procedure, especially in patients with previous ACL injuries. This is a minimally invasive procedure in which three small incisions are made in the knee. However, an allograft procedure may increase the risk of re-rupture.
Watch the video below for a detailed look at how Dr. Melander repairs a torn ACL using an allograft procedure.
ACL Injury Recovery
The recovery time for ACL injuries depends on the patient and the severity of the injury. Following surgery, a patient can expect to be in a hinged knee brace for 6-8 weeks. From there, physical therapy will be prescribed in order to rehabilitate the knee and restore full mobility. For athletes, Dr. Melander develops a “return to play” protocol, which is an extension of physical therapy designed to put them through activities similar to their sport. Depending on their progress in physical therapy, it may take 8-10 months for athletes to return to their sport.
ACL Injury Prevention
ACL injuries can happen to any athlete, although they are slightly more common in females, due to the anatomy of their hips and knees. All athletes should be aware of the risk factors of ACL injuries and practice ways to prevent them.
- Understanding proper landing techniques while jumping
- Strengthening hamstring and quadricep muscles
- Bending the knees and hips while pivoting
Schedule a Consultation
If you’re experiencing knee pain that you believe may be due to an ACL injury, schedule a consultation with Dr. Melander as soon as possible. The team at Melander Sports Medicine will evaluate your injury and provide a comprehensive treatment plan that restores you to full strength.