The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of four major knee ligaments. The ACL is critical to knee stability, and people who injure their ACL often complain of symptoms of their knee giving-out from under them.
How does an ACL tear occur?
An ACL tear is most often a sports-related injury. ACL tears can also occur during rough play, vehicle collisions, falls, and work-related injuries. Surprisingly, most sports-related ACL tears are “non-contact” injuries. This means that the injury occurs without the contact of another athlete, such as a tackle in football. Most often ACL tears occur when pivoting or landing from a jump.
Signs of an ACL Tear
The diagnosis of an ACL tear is made by several methods. Patients who have an ACL tear often have sustained an injury to the knee. They may have felt a “pop” in their knee, and the knee usually gives-out from under them.
ACL tears cause knee swelling and pain. On examination, your doctor can look for signs of instability of the knee. These special tests place stress on the ACL, and can detect a torn ligament. An MRI may also be used to determine if the ligament is torn, and also to look for signs of any associated injuries in the knee.
Is Surgery Necessary?
ACL tears do not necessarily require surgery. There are several important factors to consider before undergoing ACL surgery. First, do you regularly perform activities that normally require a functional ACL? Second, do you experience knee instability? If you don’t do sports that require an ACL, and you don’t have an unstable knee, then you may not need ACL surgery.
There’s also a debate about how to treat a partial ACL tear. If the ACL is not completely torn, then ACL reconstruction surgery may not be necessary. Many patients with an ACL tear start to feel better within a few weeks of the injury. These individuals may feel as though their knee is normal again, but the problems with instability may persist.
Surgery for an ACL Tear
The usual surgery for an ACL tear is called an ACL reconstruction. A repair of the ligament is rarely a possibility, and thus the ligament is reconstructed using another tendon or ligament to substitute for the torn ligament. There are several options for how to perform ACL surgery. The most significant choice is the type of graft used to reconstruct the torn ACL.
Rehab is one of the most important, yet too often neglected, aspect of ACL reconstruction surgery. Rehab following ACL surgery focuses on restoring motion and strength, and improving the stability of the joint to prevent future injuries.
If you are having issues with your ACL you may need to see a specialist. Call 713-766-0023 or visit www.wjbryanmd.com to schedule an appointment with Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. William Bryan. He’s been in practice for over thirty-five years at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.