ACL is also known as Anterior Cruciate Ligament, which refers to an injury in this specific ligament which runs diagonally across the middle of your knee. The major role of this ligament is to protect the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur and also aids in rotational knee stability. During an ACL injury, other cartilage and ligaments that are surrounding it are also affected. In most cases, the tear is partial but there are many cases of a complete tear as well.
This is one of the most common injuries of the knee and is often experienced by people involved in serious sports activities. Specifically, basketball, soccer and football athletes are the ones who face this knee injury. In fact, it is more frequent in women majorly because of the difference in physical conditioning, muscular strength and neuromuscular control.
It is mostly a sports related injury but can also occur during other things like falls, work-related injury or motor vehicle collisions. In cases of sport injuries, it happens without direct contact with another athlete, like in case of tackling or when the athlete is landing from a jump. It can also happen during strenuous workouts when there is a lot of pressure on the knee. In other cases, ACL injury is caused by a sudden change in direction or slowing down when the body is in a certain momentum. Many cases happen when there is a sudden jump or when the person firmly plants his/her knees while pivoting. In other cases, a direct blow to the knee or any other kind of collision can also be reason for an ACL injury.
The most common sign is a loud popping sensation in the knee; there are many other symptoms such as:
One may feel severe and sudden pain in the affected area. This often hampers continuation of the activity they are involved in.
Rapid swelling that occurs within 24 hours. In many cases, this may increase if the person continues with the sports or physical activity he/she was involved in. This can also lead to increasing the risk of damaging the cartilage that cushions the knee.
Another major symptom is a discomfort in walking, forcing the person to follow minimal movement.
Loss of range of motion is another symptom of ACL injury.
Your initial doctor visit will involve delving into the patient history. The doctor will have a conversation with you about your medical history and the current symptoms that you are facing. This is usually followed by a physical examination where the doctor checks the structures of your injured knee and then compares it to your other knee that is not injured. In most cases, this physical examination is sufficient to diagnose an ACL injury. To confirm this diagnosis, there are other tests that are carried out. Few Tests are mentioned below:
X-ray: Though it does not show the injury but is helpful in other ways. It shows if your injury has an association with a broken bone, which in turn helps in the treatment of the patient.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging - Magnetic Resonance Imaging also known as MRI scan. It aids in getting better images of soft tissues such as the anterior cruciate ligament. However, it is not required in most cases, unless the doctor suggests.
Mostly, treatment for an ACL injury is dependent on specific needs of any individual. In cases where younger athletes are involved, there is a need for surgery. With older individuals, surgery is often avoided and they are suggested to get back to a quieter lifestyle without any form of rigorous workout.
ACL injury can’t heal without surgery, but it becomes too cumbersome for older people hence they are suggested other ways to deal with it. Especially in cases where the knee is intact, non-surgical options are recommended.
Many doctors suggest bracing which involves using a brace to prevent your knee from any kind of instability. Other options include using a crutch to avoid putting a lot of pressure on your injured leg. Then there is physical therapy which is recommended once the swelling goes down. There is a proper rehabilitation program suggested that includes certain exercises. These aid in restoration of your knee functioning and strengthens leg muscles.
This involves rebuilding of the ligament. In most of the ACL injuries, it is not possible to stitch back the tears. Therefore, one has to reconstruct the ligament for restoring knee stability. This involves the doctor replacing your torn ligament with a tissue graft. In turn, this graft becomes the base for the new ligament to grow. Sourcing the grafts can happen from multiple places. Most common is the patellar tendon, which runs between your shinbone and kneecap. Another source is the hamstring tendons which are present at the back of your thighs. Quadriceps tendon, present between thigh and kneecap are another common source for grafts. In many cases, cadaver graft can also be used.
However, using grafts has its own pros and cons. Therefore it is suggested to have a thorough discussion with the orthopaedic surgeon before determining the best option. Even after the surgery is completed, it takes about six months or more than that before the injured can get back to an active sports lifestyle.
Any surgery related with an ACL injury involves rebuilding of the anterior cruciate ligament and this is done by making small incisions using an arthroscope. This is an ideal option as it is less invasive. This means lesser pain and it involves lesser time spent in the hospital. It also means one gets to heal faster.
Whether your treatment involves surgery or not, rehabilitation plays a vital role in getting you back to your daily routine. A physical therapy program will help you regain knee strength and motion. If you have surgery, physical therapy first focuses on returning motion to the joint and surrounding muscles. This is followed by a strengthening program designed to protect the new ligament. This strengthening gradually increases the stress across the ligament. The final phase of rehabilitation is aimed at a functional return tailored for the athlete's sport.
A knee injury is a serious setback to our daily functioning and this is why it becomes important to treat it right. Medical offerings from places like Max Healthcare understand this importance and thus provide you with experts on the same. Right from precise diagnosis to treatment options that are customized – they take you through a stress-free journey. With in-house professionals, and their expert recommendations, treatment and recovery comes with ease.