Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the primary stabilizers of your knee. The ligament is robust, but when the knee is subjected to forceful deceleration, twisting maneuvers, or an impact to the side of the knee, it can tear. A pop may occur at the time of the injury, and 2/3 of patients will experience notable swelling within 24 hours. When the ACL is torn or incompetent, it can allow your knee to shift or buckle, particularly with twisting or cutting maneuvers. Over 75% of patients with an ACL tear will go on to have recurrent instability if it is left untreated. Treatment options for your anterior cruciate ligament tear are primarily dictated by the sport and functional expectations you have for your knee as well as, to some extent, by your age. The large majority of patients will require creation of a new anterior cruciate ligament (an ACL reconstruction) to restore stability and function to the knee. Minimally invasive techniques using an arthroscope (a lighted instrument inserted through a tiny incision) are used to assist with the surgery.
A critical component of the success of your surgery is the rehabilitation program. Initially a 1 – 3 week period of partial weight bearing may be recommended. Formal physical therapy assists you in regaining your normal range of motion and strength. Running is initiated at approximately 3 months and agility exercises one month later. Athletes involved in cutting / pivoting sports (i.e. soccer) generally begin practice at 6 months with return to competition at 7 – 8 months. Following an ACL reconstruction, there is an 85 – 90% likelihood that you will be able to return to any activity you choose after proper rehabilitation for your injured knee.