ACL injuries are one of the most common injuries OASIS sports medicine professionals see in their practices. These injuries which occur in the knee ligaments are so common that there are an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 ACL injuries in the United States every year.
An injury to the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, can be incredibly painful and recovery often means the athlete will have to miss the rest of the season. An ACL rupture doesn’t have to be a career-ending injury for an athlete – the important thing is that athletes understand what an ACL injury is, and the treatment options available.
Your ACL’s role in your knee
Your ACL is one of four major ligaments that allow your knee to function properly and they all connect your thigh bone to your lower leg bones. Your ACL – along with your PCL, or posterior cruciate ligament — is located in the center of your knee. The PCL is in the back and the ACL’s in the front. It essentially acts as a powerful rubber band, helping to keep your knee stable and bending smoothly, whether you’re walking across the living room or sprinting down a soccer field.
What is an ACL tear?
ACL injuries typically occur as a result of sudden start-stop, high impact, or pivoting movements that put excessive strain on the ligament. This is why ACL injuries are so common among football, basketball, and soccer players, however, an ACL injury can happen to any athlete who is rigorously moving on their feet.
When an athlete experiences an ACL injury, they often report a “popping” sensation in the knee. This is then followed by rapid and painful swelling around the knee cap and loss of motion.
Can an ACL injury be prevented?
While you can never truly make sports injuries 100% preventable, there are things that athletes can do to make an ACL injury less likely. The first is consistent exercise and regular stretching before participating in sports activities. Exercises should include targeted, multifaceted workouts that strengthen the hips, calves, thighs, and body core to provide good support to the knees.
Athletes should also do their best to be conscious of their movements and avoid exercise if extremely fatigued. Many ACL injuries are a result of jumping and landing improperly. Aligning one’s body to land evenly on both feet, shoulder-length apart, and bending at the knees when jumping will help to prevent injury.
Treatment options for ACL injuries
While a sprain can heal on its own, an ACL injury will not. Anyone who experiences an ACL tear will need to see a doctor who will check the knee during a physical exam. While some ACL injuries may be treated through weeks of rehabilitative therapy to help restore the knee’s range of motion, recovery can still take six months or longer and the patient may need to wear a knee brace.
Athletes who wish to continue playing their sport will likely need to have surgery to rebuild the ligaments.
The physicians at OASIS Hospital will work with each athlete to determine the best plan of action for ACL recovery. To learn more, find a physician today.