Your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a vital component to your knee joint. When you’re active in sports or exercise, it’s a bigger risk that you’ll suffer an injury to your ACL. But this type of injury doesn’t always mean you have to have surgery to get back on the field.
At Alpha Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, our team consists of six orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the care and treatment of many types of injuries. If you suffer an injury to your knee, our team provides state-of-the-art diagnostic testing and modern treatments to get you back to your normal activities.
Signs of an ACL injury
An ACL injury can happen from any movement that causes too much stress on the ligament. This is often due to sports where you need to stop suddenly or pivot on your leg. A direct hit to your knee may also cause your ACL to tear.
In most cases, you’ll know you’ve injured your ACL, as the symptoms are pretty apparent. An ACL injury typically exhibits the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in your knee
- Inability to continue your activity
- A popping sound or sensation
- Trouble putting weight on your knee
- Severe swelling
- Decreased range of motion
If you have any of the above signs and symptoms, it’s imperative that you stop what you’re doing to prevent further damage to your ACL. While mild injuries may be able to heal on their own, moderate to severe ACL injuries usually require medical intervention, including surgery.
Do you need ACL surgery?
Not every ACL injury requires surgery. Minor sprains or strains simply require rest and physical therapy to allow the ligament to heal. However, there are times when an ACL injury does need surgical repair, which include:
You have a grade 3 tear
A grade 3 tear means your ACL has completely torn through. A completely torn ACL is no longer able to keep your knee joint stable. In this case, surgery is the best option for a full recovery.
You’re an athlete
If you’re active in sports and are looking to return to your previous level of fitness, surgery is the best option for treatment. Surgery allows full use of your knee joint again, where nonsurgical treatments may limit your physical capacity.
Your knee buckles
If you continue to have knee instability after your injury, ACL surgery is recommended to improve the structure of your knee. Knee buckling while walking isn’t something you want to experience long term.
There’s other damage
An ACL injury can mean damage to other structures in the knee, too. If you’ve torn your meniscus or injured any of the other ligaments or tendons in your knee, our team recommends surgery to allow you full functionality of your knee joint.
Your age also plays a role in determining if you need surgery on your ACL. Younger people do better with ACL surgery, especially if they’re active. If you’re older and don’t plan on participating in sports or aggressive physical activity, surgery might not be for you.
Healing after surgery
After you undergo an ACL reconstruction, your knee needs time to heal and allow the new ligament to heal into place. It’s important that you follow all of your post-operative instructions to ensure a smooth recovery.
For the first few weeks after surgery, you’ll need to wear a knee brace to prevent your knee from moving so the new ACL can heal. You’ll also need to start physical therapy soon after surgery to begin the rehabilitation process.
You’ll have a lot of swelling right after surgery, and are advised to use ice on and off while the area heals. This helps reduce inflammation and pain in the post-operative period.
Anti-inflammatory medications also help for the first few weeks after your procedure. You may be prescribed pain medications for a few days to ease any discomfort from the incision. However, as the swelling goes down, over-the-counter pain medications should be enough to ease any slight discomfort.
Typically, you can return to your normal activities in about six months. However, this is highly dependent on the severity of your injury, how well you do in physical therapy, and your overall health. Sometimes, it may take more or less time until you return to sports or other physical activity.
If you’ve suffered an ACL injury, don’t hesitate to call our team at one of our three locations in McKinney, Prosper, and Sherman, Texas, to schedule an appointment. You can also book a consultation on our website with one of our orthopedic specialists.