ACL Tear – Symptoms
An ACL Tear usually occurs while playing sports. If you experience one or more of the below symptoms, you may have an ACL Tear-
- A popping sound in your knee
- Severe knee pain
- Tenderness in the knee joint
- Rapid swelling in the knee
- Difficulty in any knee movement
- Instability while walking or standing
- Not being able to bear the body-weight on the knee
ACL Tear – Causes
A sudden change in direction can stress and damage the ACL ligament. That is why ACL injuries most commonly occur while playing sports like soccer, basketball, football, downhill skiing or gymnastics where there may be one or more of the following –
- landing awkwardly from a jump
- pivoting with your foot firmly planted
- sudden slowing or stopping
- receiving a hard blow on the knee
There are certain factors that may increase your risk of an ACL Tear. These may include –
- Using footwear that doesn’t fit you well
- Using poorly maintained sports equipment
- Playing on artificial turf surfaces
Females are at a higher risk of having an ACL Tear than men, possibly due to differences in anatomy, muscle strength and hormones.
ACL Tear – Diagnosis
Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check your knee for swelling or tenderness and compare your injured knee to the uninjured one.
The doctor may also move your knee in different directions to assess the range of motion of the joint. Often this is the only diagnosis needed for an ACL Tear.
However, in order to determine the severity of the injury, further tests may be ordered –
- X-ray – to detect any bone fracture
- MRI – to show the extent of your ACL injury as well as signs of damage to knee cartilages
- Ultrasound – to detect injuries in the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the knee.
ACL Tear – Treatment
In case your ACL Tear is minor, you may only need at-home care which includes –
- Taking rest
- Applying ice on your knees every 2 hours
- Taking prescribed anti-inflammation medicines
- Wearing a compression wrap around the knee
- Lying down with your leg placed over pillows.
Your doctor may recommend you to undergo physical therapy to strengthen knee muscles and restore its full range of motion.
Surgery to treat the torn ACL i.e. ACL reconstruction surgery will be recommended only if:
- You are an athlete and want to continue playing your sport
- Multiple structures in your knee are injured
- The injury is causing your knee to give away during routine activities
In this surgery, the damaged ligament is reconstructed using a graft taken from your own body.
After surgery, you will be required to undergo a rehabilitation process to increase range of motion in the joint, strengthen the knee muscles, protect the new ligament and stabilize the knee.
ACL Tear – Risks & Complications
Having an ACL Tear can put you at a higher risk of developing arthritis of that knee.
If the torn ACL is left untreated, the tibia and femur bone can rub against each other and this friction may cause damage to the knee cartilage.
Even after ACL reconstruction surgery, you may face certain complications including –
- blood clots
- knee pain when kneeling down or crouching
- swelling in the replaced ligament
- long-term knee weakness and stiffness
- failure of the newly grafted ligament and knee instability ( relatively uncommon)
ACL Tear – Pre Op Care
- Inform your doctor about all ongoing medications.
- Inform the doctor if you use dentures, tooth cap or plate. (a tube may be put down your throat to aid breathing during the surgery, and any loose teeth could be dangerous)
ACL Tear – Post Op Care
- Take enough rest.
- You may use crutches to walk.
- Avoid any movement that strains the knee.
- Keep your legs elevated on 1-2 pillows placed under the foot or calf muscle. Ensure that the knee is not bent.
- You may need special elastic bands on your legs to prevent blood clots.
- Inform the doctor if you have redness, pain, swelling, or yellowish discharge from the surgery wound.
- Perform the recommended post-operative exercises.
- Start physiotherapy within 1-2 weeks of surgery.