According to an old adage, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. And in the long game of life, this is especially true when it comes to avoiding sports injuries.Yet, no matter how careful you are on the playing field, mishaps can and do happen often – some minor, some major. One of the more serious sports-related injuries that can put you on the disabled list is an ACL tear.
ACL is short for the anterior cruciate ligament, which is located inside the knee. It connects the thighbone to the shinbone. The ACL is a stabilizing ligament that comes in handy when players suddenly start, stop, or pivot as athletes often do in basketball, football, tennis, and other sports. But ACL tears commonly occur when you make a twisting motion with your flex knee when your foot is firmly planted on the ground or court. They can also happen due to a collision or when you land on an outstretched leg and your heel slips forward.
Whatever the cause, there are distinct symptoms to an ACL tear. These may include:
- A snap or pop you feel in your knee
- Knee pain that can range from mild to severe
- Immediate swelling of the knee following the injury
- Instability or the feeling that your knee is giving way
- Limited motion of your knee
Fortunately, there is effective sports medicine evaluation and treatment for ACL tears. The first step, of course, is for a qualified doctor to assess the extent of the damage. If the injury is too painful for a sports medicine specialist to test the strength of the affected knee ligament, X-rays and magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) scans may be ordered to enable proper diagnosis.
Treatment for an ACL tear usually starts with rest, cold compression, elevation, and bracing. If the injury prevents the patient from putting weight on the affected leg, crutches may be provided. In severe cases, surgery consisting of ACL reconstruction with an autograft (using the patient’s own tissue) or an allograft (tissue from an organ donor) may be required. Regardless of the course of treatment, physical rehabilitation therapy is almost always recommended. With the guidance of a trained professional, you can reduce your risk of suffering an ACL injury by performing strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, and toes raises. The object is to strengthen your leg muscles, particularly the front (quadriceps) and back (hamstring area) muscles of your thighs. Plyometric training exercises that include lateral jumps and lunges can help build leg strength, flexibility, and endurance. Another preventive measure is to avoid wearing shoes with cleats when playing contact sports.
If you sustain an ACL tear or are experiencing any kind of knee pain, don’t wait – seek out a reputable, board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who can educate you about your treatment options. The staff at Orthopaedic Associates utilizes both cutting-edge therapies and traditional treatments to address a variety of orthopedic conditions, including sports injuries. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call 440-892-1440.