Anterior Cruciate Ligament Treatment

When somebody has suffered an ACL injury then, typically, the first step towards recovery is a visit to the doctor and a physical examination. There are basically three types of ACL injuries ranging from a slight stretch to a partial and then total tear, in all cases of a stretch the treatment is non surgical, in some partial tears surgery is needed and always in the case of total tears.

The doctor will perform an examination and check out the patient's symptoms and their medical history. Along with the physical examination, often an x-ray or MRI scan will be the next step, although x-rays do not display an ACL ligament injury they can detect broken bones. The MRI scan is far better for displaying images of soft tissue damage but this is not always necessary.

There are a number of tests that can be performed to establish if there is an ACL injury, one is the Lachman test and the other is the pivot shift test.

The treatment for an ACL injury can be either surgical non- surgical depending on the severity of the injury and the age of the patient and their level of activity.

If the injury is a grade 3 (a torn ligament) it will require surgery to be able to heal effectively, depending on the level of activity of the patient. If the level of activity is quite low, then nonsurgical options may be the best way to go, if the overall stability the knee is still intact.

The most common non- surgical treatments include physical therapy and bracing, in many cases where a surgical procedure is not deemed necessary by the doctor or specialist, a brace will be prescribed by the doctor and sometimes also crutches, to avoid further injury by putting too much weight on the injured leg.

After the swelling has reduced, then a gentle program of rehabilitation will be needed to be able to restore full functionality to the injured knee and for the supporting muscles to be strengthened. There are many sports injury physiotherapists who are experienced in the rehabilitation of athletes and other people with ACL injuries.

If surgery is needed, as in the case of a tear, then the ligament has to be reconstructed which means having to replace the torn ligament with a tissue graft. This graft acts like a form of scaffolding of sorts to assist the ligament to grow back.

It will take at least four or five months before an athlete can return to their chosen sport after surgery. The grafts are taken from a number of sources, which can include the patella tendon, which is found between the shin and the kneecap, or sometimes from the quadriceps tendon, which runs from the thigh to the kneecap, or from the hamstring tendons, which are found at the back of the thigh.

There are advantages and disadvantages of the use of different tendon tissues to help rebuild the torn ligaments and the surgeon will be able to explain these differences to the patient before making the best decision. Either way, whether the patient has had surgery or not the rehabilitation is an extremely important aspect of recovery in order to regain full motion and strength of the knee. This part of the program will help to protect the new ligament after surgery.

Here is a link to a video that explains the various types of treatment available -