Anyone who plays a sport or works in sports medicine knows that knee problems are ubiquitous among athletes. While some of those are chronic or overuse injuries, there are many common acute knee injuries as well, among them damage to the anterior cruciate ligament. This extremely common injury has more than 200,000 incidences every single year in the United States. If you’ve damaged your ACL, you’re probably asking these questions:
What Is the ACL and How Is It Injured?
The ACL is one of several important ligament in the knee. It runs diagonally (“cruciate” meaning crossed) inside the knee joint, crossing in front (“anterior” means front) of another ligament in an X shape. Together, these ligaments control the forward-and-back motion of the knee. The ACL is also stabilizes the positioning of the tibia and the femur and keeps the knee from over-rotating. The most common ways to injure the ACL are rapid changes in motion, sudden stops, incorrect placement when landing a jump and direct trauma to the knee. Most injuries to the ACL are classified as sprains and graded on a scale of one to three, with a grade three sprain being a complete rupture.
What Kind of ACL Treatments Are Possible?
On the surgical side, ACL reconstruction and ACL repair are both possible. The former involves using a graft to replace the injured ligament, whereas the latter reattaches the ligament and bone fragments to the bone. There are two types of ACL repair surgeries: open and arthroscopic. In open knee surgery, a large incision is made. In arthroscopic knee surgery, however, small incisions are made so that very small instruments can be inserted. Regardless of the type, ACL-related surgeries are performed by orthopedic surgeons.
What’s the Recovery Time for ACL Injuries?
It may take up to nine months to fully recover from an ACL surgery, but more mild strains may require only physical therapy. Regardless of whether surgery is needed or what kind of surgery is performed, rehabilitation is critical; not exercising the joint (in doctor-approved ways) can lead to muscular atrophy and a longer recovery time.
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