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Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

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The most common of all knee injuries is the anterior cruciate ligament injury. It is mostly seen in athletes who play football, basketball, soccer and other contact sports.  The treatment for anterior cruciate ligament injury is surgery in most cases. This depends on the severity of the injury.

What is Anterior Cruciate Ligament?

Anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four important knee ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament is very important for imparting stability to the knee. It helps in the prevention of excessive motion of the knee joint. The ACL ligament keeps the tibia from moving forward of the knee. The shin bone in a similar fashion is prevented from  from moving backwards of the knee by the posterior cruciate ligament.

Thus, those who injure the ACL, often complain of their knee giving away. The knee instability causes problems with daily activities and makes it difficult to balance on uneven surfaces. Thus, making surgery the only option to treat this instability.

How Does One Suffer from Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

One can tear or sprain the ACL in many ways. It can occur when one a twisting force is applied to the knee when the foot is firmly planted on the ground. It can also occur when one is landing and twists suddenly.

Sometimes a direct blow to the outer side of the knee may lead to anterior cruciate ligament injury. This usually happens during a football or rugby game. The sudden slowing down when running can also lead to a sprain or tear in the ACL.

Symptoms of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

When one injures the ACL, they will hear a popping noise and the knee giving out. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain in knee along with severe swelling
  • Loss of full range of motion
  • Tenderness of the joint
  • Discomfort when walking, causing one to walk with a stiff leg
  • One may feel as if the knee is unstable and about to give away when walking or standing.

Diagnosis for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

The doctor will examine the knee and check for instability. You will be asked to move your knee, leg and foot in different directions and angles. You may even be asked to hop or lean on your injured leg. Make sure you tell the doctor of any pain or discomfort you may feel with these activities.

The doctor may carry out the pivot-shift test, Lachman test as well as the anterior drawer test to diagnose an ACL injury.  An X ray and an MRI will be helpful in confirming the clinical examination observation.

Treatment for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

The treatment depends on the severity, extent and the individual need. An older athlete may spend the rest of his life without surgery using conservative treatment methods. Whereas, a young player may require surgery and get back to sports.

The conservative methods of treating anterior cruciate ligament injury will not help in healing the condition. These methods are used for those who are elderly or will have a low activity level. Also, if the overall stability is good, the doctor will recommend the conservative treatment. These include using a brace that provides stability to the knee.

Crutches or a stick may be recommended to prevent one the body’s weight on the affected leg. Physical therapy will help one exercise and strengthen the knee muscles to support the weight when walking and standing.

The surgical treatment involves rebuilding the ACL tears by sutures. In some places, tissue grafts will be placed to help the new ligament grow into place.

Rehabilitation After Surgery

The process of regaining the full use of the joint is very long and involves a lot of work. The doctor will chart out a physical therapy program that will help the knee regain its strength and motion.

Anterior cruciate ligament injury is a life-changing injury for some. Speak to your doctor in detail about your injury and the treatment options you have related to an anterior cruciate ligament sprain or tear.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015