Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are common injuries in sports like football, rugby, soccer, basketball, and hockey. Once you have sustained an injury, it is important to retrain the muscles and body movement, to minimize the risk of re-injury.

Knee injuries

What is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament is a ligament in the knee that connects the top front of the shin bone, to the upper back of the thigh bone. It prevents the shin bone from moving forward on the thigh bone.

knee joint

How can you injure the ACL?

It can be ruptured with any planting and twisting of the knee.

This can happen when your foot is planted and someone tackles you in soccer, a twist as you land awkwardly from a jump in basketball; or when you stop abruptly to change directions.

When injured, the ACL is likely completely torn – rarely is it ever a partial-tear or sprain.

When an ACL injury occurs, most often than not, the meniscus is affected also. The meniscus is a cartilaginous disc between the shin and thigh bone that acts as a shock absorber and deepens the knee joint.

How do I know if I have torn my ACL?

When you sustain an ACL injury, you will know.

The knee will swell up immediately, and it will be difficult for you to walk. You may feel minimal pain, as the full tear removes pain receptors in the region. Full ligament tears usually present with laxity in the knee and buckling/locking of the knee.

See a physician immediately to rule out fractures or other structural damage to the knee.

Diagnostic ultrasound imaging and MRI scans are used to diagnose the ligament tear, but several orthopedic tests done by doctors and physiotherapists or chiropractors can also definitively diagnose an ACL tear without waiting for imaging.

What are the next steps to my recovery?

Your physician will likely refer you to an orthopedic specialist, who will discuss with you your option of doing a surgical ACL repair. If you are active and have no contraindications for surgery, this is often your best option.

Before surgery, your physiotherapist can provide you with safe exercises to prevent muscle atrophy.

Pre-surgical rehabilitation has been proven to improve the outcomes of surgery.

After the operation is a full year of rehabilitation to regain your range of motion, re-activate and strengthen your muscles, gait training, and return to sports.

Physiotherapy can help minimize pain and promote recovery for the damaged structures in the knee.

If you experience knee pain with walking, going up/down steps, kneeling, or running book an appointment with us at Full Function Rehab & Wellness in Vaughan.

Written By: Danette Lam, PT

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