Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament that you have on each of your knees. It’s a band of tissue that runs diagonally through the knee and stops the tibia (shin bone) from sliding out in front of the femur (thigh bone). The ligament works with other bands of tissue in the knee to hold the joint stable.
An ACL tear is typically a sports injury and it requires intense sports medicine and physical therapy strategies for treatment. It’s likely for an ACL tear to require orthopedic surgery too.
You’ll know right away that something is wrong when an ACL tears because it causes immediate and intense pain. You can tear your ACL by stopping suddenly, landing improperly after jumping, or colliding with another player or object. Here at Crom Rehabilitation in Houston and Pearland, Texas, physical therapists Roy Rivera, Jr., PT, PhD, DPT, and Jordan Boyd, PT, DPT, can evaluate, treat, and rehabilitate your injury.
Here’s what you should know as an athlete about ACL tears.
Not all ACL tears are the same, and you won’t know how severe yours is until your providers can see it on an X-ray or other imaging scan. After evaluating you, your physicians categorize the injury into one of three categories:
A grade 1 sprain is the least severe of the three. The ligament is overstretched, but not torn. You probably won’t need surgery with this type.
This is a partial tear of the ACL. Treatment may be a little more intense than with a grade 1 sprain.
In the case of a grade 3 sprain, the ligament tears completely in half. It no longer provides any stability for your joint, and you almost definitely need surgery in order for the joint to recover. This type also involves the longest recovery time.
While recovery from surgery takes some time and you’ll need to prepare yourself for surgery in a number of ways, most orthopedic surgeons are able to repair ACLs with minimally invasive surgical techniques. This means fewer incisions, less recovery time, fewer risks, and less postoperative pain.
Not everyone with an ACL tear needs surgery, but your providers might recommend surgery if you’re young, athletic, and want to return to your sport or activity of choice.
Eager as you may be to return to the field or court, an ACL tear takes its time to heal. Most athletes find that it takes 7-9 months of healing and rehabilitation before they’re able to play safely again, and that’s assuming they’ve gone through treatment and physical therapy to strengthen and mobilize the joint. Still, you’ll be happy you waited since jumping back into a high level of physical activity risks injuring the knee even further.
An ACL injury may be painful and debilitating, but with professional help and guidance, you don’t have to give up your athleticism because of the injury. Schedule a treatment consultation over the phone or online at Crom Rehabilitation today.