ACL Injury – Injuries of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is one of the key cruciate ligaments that are located within the joints of the knee. Its purpose is to provide stability to the knees. This ligament connects the tibia and femur and prevents over straightening or over bending of the knee whilst limiting the sliding-movement between the bones. An ACL injury is a tear of the ligament.

Causes of ACL Injuries

Most ACL injuries are sports-related. They usually occur during rough play, falls and mover-vehicle collisions. Of all sports related ACL injuries, 80% are non contact injuries. This implies that the injury happens without any contact of one athlete with another. Below is a list of some of the common causes of ACL injuries.

  • Sudden stop.
  • Slowing down whilst running.
  • Rapid change of direction.
  • Incorrect landing from a jump.
  • Collision or direct-contact such as football tackles.

Studies have proven that female athletes are more prone to this form of injury than males. This was attributed to the differences in the neuromuscular control, muscular strength and physical conditioning between the men and women. The other causes include looseness in ligaments, estrogen effects on the properties of ligaments, and differences in the alignment of the lower extremity and pelvis.

Symptoms of ACL Injuries

The signs and symptoms of an ACL injury depend on how severe the injury is. For instance, the symptoms of a partial ACL may significantly be less severe than those of a complete ligament injury. Below are some of the symptoms of this injury.

  1. Pain: This is one of the most well-known symptoms of an ACL injury. The sharp pain usually begins in the knees outside and back and then turns to a throbbing ache in the knees. The severity of the pain will be increased by physical movements such as bending and straightening of the knees and legs.
  2. Swelling of The Knee: This is sometimes referred to as hemarthrosis. It is brought about by the disruption of the ACL, which in turn causes the joint of the knee to get filled with blood. The swollen knees appear large, puffy and tight.
  3. Pop sound: You may hear an audible crack or pop. In most cases, this is accompanied by a sharp pain. This sound may be resulting from the femur and tibia rubbing against one another.
  4. Instability due to loss of strength: The fact that ACL is a major player in providing stability to the knees, injuring this ligament may cause the joints of the knee to become less stable.
  5. Limited motion: The extreme pain and swelling caused to the knee results into a limited range of motion and difficulty in moving the legs.

Treatment Options

Patients of ACL injuries shouldn’t be in the misconception that they will never be able to participate in any sport again. This is due to the availability of many treatment options nowadays. A proper diagnosis should be sought before confirming the tear. Magnetic resonance can be used to provide accurate diagnosis to help plan further treatments.

First Aid: After getting an ACL injury, the injured leg must be immediately rested and then have ice applied. After this, the knee should be wrapped with a tight bandage so as to control the swelling. If the pain becomes too much, swallow a pain killer. There are two treatment options; that is the surgery and physical rehabilitation. The choice of the treatment option depends on the severity of the injury.

  1. Physical Rehabilitation – Physical therapy entails flexibility and strengthening exercises which help to attain the knee’s normal movements. Your workout will be planned according to the severity of the injury, physical fitness and age. These exercises should be performed under supervision of an expert so as to avoid any outward-incident. The length of the rehab program will also depend on the severity of the injury. Completing the rehab program successfully will help you avoid surgery and recommence your normal activities as soon as posssible. Never fail to complete the rehab program and in case even after completing the program you are unable to resume your sports career, go for surgery.
  2. Surgery – The most preferred surgery is the ACL reconstruction. This surgery doesn’t deal with repair but instead with the replacement of the ACL’s damaged tissues. Generally, arthroscopic surgery is simple and the patient may be discharged 4-5hours after finishing the operation. For fast recovery, you may follow surgery with physical rehabilitation.

Athletes that perform in sports such as soccer, basketball, or football need to undergo surgery so as to regain proper functioning of ACL. A successful surgery and rehabilitation program can help an injured athlete to return to their sport after 6-8months. Even though the injury is painful and frustrating to very many people, the victim needs to stay patient and positive toward life.

A proper test needs to be preformed to determine if the ACL is ruptured or torn. These tests include the Anterior drawer test, the lachman test and the pivot shift test.

Before undergoing any treatment plan, if you suspect you have torn your ACL you need to see your local doctor and get a referral to a specialist where you may under go an MRI.

Treatment can depend upon a number of variables such as a patients age, but is usually determined by the severity of the tear.

Light tears can often be treated conservatively, where as more damaging tears will require surgical intervention.

ACL Injury and Treatment

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