Tears of the ACL are a common sports injury but can also happen if you trip or fall. If you’re experiencing knee pain from an acute injury, the orthopedic specialists at Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine in Westfield and West Orange, New Jersey, can diagnose the cause of the problem and provide the most effective treatments. ACL tears can’t heal without treatment, so don’t make your injury worse by trying to carry on. Call the office nearest you today to schedule a consultation or book your appointment online.
What is an ACL tear?
ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, which is one of the connective fibers in your knee. Your ACL is most likely to tear during vigorous exercise or when you’re playing sports, but any activity could injure the ACL if it’s put under enough pressure.
Your knee is able to bend thanks in large part to four ligaments that attach the ends of the bones in the joint to each other. At either side of each knee, you have collateral ligaments and inside the knee are two cruciate ligaments.
The cruciate ligaments go across the inside of your knee, with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) at the back and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the front. ACL injuries can range from mild Grade 1 sprains to Grade 3 sprains, where the ACL tears in two or separates completely from the bone. A Grade 3 sprain often causes severe knee instability.
What causes ACL tears?
The kinds of movements that typically cause ACL tears include:
- Changing direction or stopping suddenly
- Slowing clumsily when running
- Poor landing technique after jumping
- Impacts from sports tackles or falls
It’s common to hear a popping sound as the ACL tears, and your knee is liable to give way. Afterward, your knee swells and feels tender, and you may have problems walking. After a day or two, these symptoms often start to fade, which makes you think the injury is healing.
Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case, and using the knee again can lead to further tissue damage.
How are ACL tears treated?
Your provider at Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine needs to assess how bad the tear is and discuss with you what degree of function you need in the future. The reason for this is that ACL tears can’t heal without surgery, so if you need a fully functioning knee because you play sports, for instance, then surgery is the best option.
However, if you lead a quieter kind of life and only need basic functionality in your knee, then less invasive treatments are often sufficient. Physical therapy, joint injections, and a knee brace all help to strengthen the muscles and connective tissues in and around the joint and reduce pain.
It’s not possible to simply sew the ends of the cruciate ligament together, so ACL surgery involves reconstructing the ligament using a graft taken from another part of your body or donated tissue. Post-surgical healing can take six months, but if you undergo physical therapy, your knee should return to normal.
Find out more about treatment for ACL tears and other sports injuries by calling Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine today, or book an appointment online.