The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee.
The ACL is one of the four main ligaments within the knee that connect the femur to the tibia. The ACL runs diagonally in the middle of the knee, preventing the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur as well as providing rotational stability to the knee.
Immediately after an injury to the ACL, a person will usually experience pain and swelling and the knee feels unstable. Within a few hours after a new ACL injury, patients often have a large amount of knee swelling, a loss of full range of motion, pain or tenderness along the joint line and discomfort while walking.
Treatment options for ACL injuries include both operative and non-operative treatments.
Non-surgical treatment is typically reserved for lower demand individuals who are not involved in regular cutting or pivoting-type activities. Physical therapy and home exercise can help restore knee motion and function with low demand activities.
The goal of ACL reconstruction surgery is to prevent instability and restore the function of the torn ligament, creating a stable knee. The surgery, either done arthroscopically or open, uses a strip of tendon that is passed through the inside of the joint and secured to the thighbone and shinbone. The grafts commonly used to replace the ACL include:
- Patellar tendon autograft (autograft comes from the patient)
- Hamstring tendon autograft
- Quadriceps tendon autograft
- Allograft (taken from a cadaver) patellar tendon or Achilles tendon
Surgery is usually followed by an exercise and rehabilitation program to strengthen the muscles and restore full joint mobility.
When playing sports, wear shoes designed for the surface you’re playing or running on, such as a track or tennis court. It will help prevent injury.