by Alan Jordan
As the largest joint in the body, the knee is very prone to injury and one of the most severe that can occur is a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
This injury requires a long rehabilitation period and the management and recovery plan will vary from patient to patient depending on their age, lifestyle and sporting activities.
What is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?
The knee itself is made up of two articulations, with one attaching the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and the other joining the thigh bone to the knee cap (patella). The ACL runs from the thigh bone to the shin bone and it provides around 85% of the knee’s stability.
The ACL can suffer both non-traumatic injuries and traumatic injuries. Non-traumatic damage is usually caused by a sudden rotational or deceleration movement – for example the patient may suddenly change direction whilst playing sports. If this happens to you, you will often feel a popping sensation in your knee.
Traumatic injuries tend to occur when you are hit from the side and these types of ACL injury are often accompanied by tears to the medial meniscus and medial collateral ligament.
Treating an ACL Injury
If you play sports, you may be examined at the side of the pitch straight away. While the pain you are in may hinder the exam, being looked at right away does make it easier for the health practitioner to examine you before swelling develops.
If you visit a doctor a few days after the injury occurs, then any swelling and pain can make it more difficult to gain a full picture of the damage.
However, Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) can be used to diagnose associated injuries and a few weeks after the injury, orthopedic tests can be used to get a clearer idea of the extent of the damage.
Managing a Rupture of the ACL
Surgery such as grafts from a hamstring tendon can be used to manage an ACL rupture and the rehabilitation plan will be tailored to suit your specific condition and needs.
Non-surgical management can be used too and initially ice, compression, elevation and medication can be used. You may also use crutches to keep mobile without placing weight on the affected knee.
For more information about managing anterior cruciate ligament injuries, read our Broadgate Journal article. You can also find more about the author Andre Bason at http://www.broadgatespinecentre.co.uk/london-physiotherapy/.