What to Expect from an ACL Injury

Just mentioning a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is enough to make even the most experienced Physical Therapists (PTs) and Orthopedic Surgeons wince in pain. Some report there being approximately 200,000 ACL injuries every year and nearly 100,000 of them involve either a partial or complete ligament tear. More than half of these injuries are self-inflicted and many involve athletes. This is what to expect from an ACL injury.

What is an ACL?
Ligaments are what connect your bones to the joints. There are four different ligaments in your knee that hold it together. Of these four, two ligaments are susceptible to being torn, ruptured, or stretched: the ACL and the Medical Collateral Ligament (MCL). Where the ACL is located in the front part of the knee, it is the smallest of the ligaments and can be hurt in sporting activities if it is not properly stabilized. The ACL prevents the tibia from slipping beneath the femur. Most injuries occur when an athlete runs, stops quickly, jumps, hyper-extends the knee, or changes directions when the knee is in a straight position. Women and girls have a higher rate of ACL injuries because of the angle from their pelvis to their knees and feet are different from males.

ACL Injury Treatments
Remember the acronym R.I.C.E. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest the knee and use crutches to avoid putting pressure on it. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time to help control swelling. Compress the knee with an elastic wrap or splint. Elevate the leg above the level of the heart to minimize swelling. If you think it is a serious knee injury, see a doctor as soon as possible instead of risking further damage.

If surgery is the best option for your injury, there are two different methods that could be used: the arthroscopic method, which will replace the piece of the tendon via a tiny incision in the knee, or the allograft reconstruction method, which calls the replacement of tissue from a donor and is grafted into place. Your doctor will talk to you about the pros and cons of each method.

For nonsurgical options, the torn ACL will typically last six to eight weeks with treatment ongoing. The post-operative rehabilitation is a progressive program and can take can take four to six months after surgery. At first you will see the therapists at Life Fitness PT two to three times per week and if it goes as plan, an at home exercise program will be instated and you will follow up with your therapist every few weeks over four to six months.

Your therapists at Life Fitness PT are here to help you in any way possible. While it seems like a long way off, with PT, your quality of life increases after an injury such as an ACL injury.