One of the most common injuries in sports that requires rotational knee movement — such as soccer, basketball, football, and tennis — is a torn ACL. ACL is an acronym for Anterior Cruciate Ligagment. This is the part that controls back and forth movements of the knee, prevents the tibia from sliding out, and gives rotational stability and support. Athletes who participate in sports where abrupt stopping and turning are involved, or in sports with a high level of contact, are most likely to experience ACL injuries. Those who participate in physical activities where stopping and making a sharp turn are not a significant component, such as in running and swimming, are at a much lower risk for a torn ACL.
Treatments for ACL injuries vary depending on the degree of the injury. An orthopedic doctor will first discuss the patient’s medical history and symptoms, and then examine both the injured and non-injured knees for comparison. An x-ray might be required to see if a broken bone is also correlated with the knee injury. Torn ACLs require surgery to heal, but for those who are elderly and/or sedentary, a nonsurgical approach to treatment may be more favorable. A physician will determine if a brace, physical therapy, or surgery will be needed to treat the ACL.
The doctor might suggest a brace for the knee, which will prevent knee instability and limit movement that might overextend the damaged knee.
After initial swelling, a doctor will prescribe certain exercises that will restore and strengthen the weakened and debilitated knee.
If surgery is needed, an orthopedic surgeon will reconstruct the ligament with a tissue graft. A graft will allow for new ligament to grow. Regrowing a new ligament takes time, and so an athlete may not be able to return to physical activities for over six months.
Dr. Vincent Dalton, an orthopedic surgeon in Richmond VA, offers minimally invasive surgery — also known as arthroscopic surgery. This method involves the use of special equipment and a small camera, allowing for a much smaller incision. The smaller the incision, the less time spent in the hospital, a faster recovery, and a quicker return to athletics.
If you have a torn ACL or any other sports-related injuries, talk with your doctor to see what form of treatment is recommended.