Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture: Symptoms and Treatment

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Your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is important for supporting your knee joint’s stability, especially if you’re active in sports that require kicking and pivoting. When your ACL ruptures, your joint may become vulnerable to increased damage over time and movements such as pivoting and kicking may become difficult or painful. To fix a ruptured ACL, your doctor may recommend ACL reconstruction, especially if you’re young and active.

ACL injuries are more likely to occur during certain sports, such as soccer, basketball, tennis, football, volleyball, and other activities that require a lot of pivoting, jumping, kicking, and sudden stops. If you rupture your ACL, you’ll likely hear a pop in your knee and the area around your knee joint may swell and become painful. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may have to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. However, in some cases, rest and physical therapy exercises may be all you need to do to help your ACL heal.

Risk Factors for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture

Like many other types of injuries, there are certain risk factors to consider that may indicate whether you’re at risk of developing an ACL rupture. For starters, women are more likely than men to rupture their ACLs, primarily because they often have a strength imbalance in their thighs. Also, not having a proper training and rest regime may increase your risk of rupturing your ACL over time.

ACL ruptures happen when the ligaments connecting the bones in your knee joint together weaken, resulting in tears in the tissue. Many ACL injuries occur during the following activities that tend to put more stress on your knees than others:

• Pivoting

• Jumping and Landing Incorrectly

• Sudden Stops While Running

• Kicking

• Receiving Direct Blows to Your Knee

Symptoms of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture

If you think you may have a ruptured ACL, keep a look out for the following symptoms and signs:

• Loud Popping Sensation in Your Knee

• Severe Pain in Your Knee

• Swelling in Your Knee

• Limited Range of Motion

• Feeling of Instability in Your Knee

Diagnosis of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture

If you think you may have an ACL rupture, schedule a visit your doctor. During your visit, your doctor may perform a physical exam and check for swelling. He or she may also try moving your knee in a variety of positions to assess the severity of your injury. From there, your doctor may also order the following tests:

• X-rays

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

• Ultrasound

Treatment of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture

If you’re diagnosed with an ACL rupture, your doctor will recommend immediate treatment to alleviate your pain and any swelling in your knee. Some common at-home treatment plans often include rest, icing the damaged joint to reduce swelling, wrapping your injured knee in compression wrap, and elevating your knee on pillows.

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may require rehabilitative therapy. During sessions with a physical therapist, you will learn exercises to help strengthen your knee and reduce any pain you’re feeling.

In some cases, however, your injury may require surgery. During ACL reconstruction, your surgeon will remove the damaged ligament in your knee and replace it with a piece of a tendon. The process itself is a tissue graft and it serves as a platform for new ligament tissue to grow.

If you undergo ACL reconstruction, you will still have to undergo rehabilitative therapy. The combination of surgery and rehabilitative surgery helps restore function and stability to your knee in a short period of time. Typically, athletes are able to resume their physical activities eight to 12 months after surgery.

Complications of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture

Like many medical procedures and injuries, there are certain complications that may result from ACL injuries. For example, people with ACL injuries are more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis later in life.