The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) helps our knees move. When you injure the ACL — often with a tear — it compromises the stability of the knee.
This may cause balance troubles, buckling, or even reports of the joint giving out.
ACL tears are among the most common knee injuries sustained in sports. For this reason, athletes are more likely than nonathletes to develop an ACL injury.
Athletes at a higher risk for ACL injuries are those that play:
ACL injuries can lead to further joint and mobility trouble.
Because of the anatomical positioning and impact on the body, an ACL injury requires treatment to preserve:
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The main symptoms of ACL injuries are strongest and most present immediately following a suspected tear, sprain, or strain.
These symptoms include:
Diagnosis of an ACL injury or tear is most effective within the first hour after injury.
An initial medical evaluation includes:
Your doctor will then conduct a physical exam of the knee. This exam aims to gather data on the stability of your knee ligaments.
Based on the results of your exam and medical history, your doctor may order further tests to confirm a diagnosis of an ACL injury or tear.
Imaging tests for ACL injuries may include:
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Although the orthopaedic surgeons at UPMC create treatment plans for each individual's symptoms, the overarching goals for treating all ACL injuries focus on:
Depending on your desired lifestyle, your doctor may choose a nonsurgical or surgical treatment method to maximize your potential for future mobility.
Nonsurgical treatments for ACL injuries often begin with protective bracing, followed by:
Additional nonsurgical treatment options include pain medicines, as well anti-inflammatories — such as ibuprofen — to help speed recovery of the ACL injury.
In cases where you may hope to maintain or foster physical activity, doctors may recommend ACL surgery and physical therapy.
Common surgeries for ACL tears and knee injuries can include:
Treatments for ACL injuries can prove very effective in preserving knee function and mobility. For that reason, it's vital to report any suspicion of ACL injury to your doctor right away.
Following any sort of surgical treatment of an ACL injury, you will have to eliminate all weight bearing activities for three to six months, depending on your ACL tear or injury symptoms and medical history.
Rest periods and breaks from weight bearing activities are especially important for those hoping to return to physical activities. Failure to follow doctors’ orders of rest can lead to further knee problems and related complications.
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