The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It is an essential ligament that gives the knee stability. An ACL injury may range from mild, such as small tears, to severe, in which the ligament is completely torn. ACL surgery reconstructs a torn ACL and brings the knee back to full function.
Tearing the ACL is one of the most common knee injuries. More than 100,000 ACL tears occur in the U.S. every year.
The ACL helps stabilize the knee when turning or planting the body. Most ACL injuries take place during sports when a person is cutting, pivoting, sidestepping or lands abruptly. Downhill skiing, football, soccer, basketball and gymnastics are some of the sports in which ACL injuries commonly occur. These injuries usually do not involve knee contact and take place at low speed.
And, that is the ligament you don’t want injured. For starters, it is the one knee ligament that cannot heal on its own. In addition, it can’t be stitched back together. Women are more likely to suffer an ACL injury than men and ACL injuries are associated with team sports like football, volleyball and soccer.
Immediately after an ACL tear, a person usually:
Within a few hours, patients often have:
If you are experiencing all or some of these symptoms, you should be evaluated by a knee specialist.
If you think you may have an ACL injury, you should be examined as soon as possible. In the examination, the doctor will:
The doctor may order:
There are two things in particular that physicians at Memorial Hermann are doing in an effort to extend the life of reconstructed ACLs.
First of all, it is important that surgeons place the replacement ACL in the exact footprint of the original. This is something that requires an experienced surgeon and is critical to the healing process. It is the only technique that allows the knee to function with its normal internal motion after the completion of the procedure. If the ACL is not reconstructed in the anatomic fashion, then the knee will not move and behave as it did before the injury.
Secondly, it is important that rehabilitation be designed with the intent of enhancing the function of the reconstructed ACL and not just to get the patient up on his or her feet as soon as possible. Once the procedure has been completed, the most important step in achieving an outstanding result is specific and guided physical therapy over the following six to nine months.
Patients usually begin a scheduled program of physical therapy and targeted exercise one to two weeks after ACL surgery. Some physicians may begin rehabilitation as soon as the day after surgery. Rehabilitation after ACL surgery typically takes six to nine months but may take up to a year.
Affiliated physicians and physical therapists meet with patients following surgery to outline the goals of physical therapy, which include restoring function and motion as soon as possible and making sure patients are adequately prepared for the next step. Our physicians and therapists are in constant communication with each other to provide a unique team approach ensuring the highest standard of sports medicine rehabilitation.
Therapists also prepare patients for the mental aspects of ACL recovery, which is particularly important for athletes that will need confidence in their reconstructed knee when returning back to sporting activities.
Physical therapy is an important part of recovery after ACL surgery. Focused exercises restore motion, strengthen the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, and improve joint position awareness that were weakened by the injury. Physical therapy allows active adults and athletes to return to their normal activities and sports safely and helps prevent re-injury.
The team of physicians, orthopedic surgeons, therapists, and trainers at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute treat a variety of sports injuries, allowing the active patient to return to their desired activity level in a safe, effective, and timely manner.
For more information on IRONMAN orthopedic doctors or surgeons, treatment for injuries, scheduling Human Performance services, or getting more information about physical therapy, please fill out the form below or call us at (713) 222-2273