The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is very important as it works with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) to produce the back and forth motions of the knee. It also rotationally stabilizes the knee by not allowing the knee to over-rotate in a specific direction. Although athletes and active individuals are most at risk to partially or completely tear their ACL, accidents such as a slip and fall or missed step can damage the ACL as well.
Once an ACL tear has been diagnosed by the specialists at Active Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, it is treated using a step-by-step process which includes numerous treatment options.
ACL Tear: Initial Treatment
A partial ACL tear typically causes a moderate amount of swelling and it is usually difficult for the patient to bear weight on the injured leg without feeling pain or instability. The goals of the first part of treatment is to reduce swelling and pain and start partial weight bearing. Treatment options include the following:
- Crutches help with balance and support
- Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to decrease swelling and pain
- Anti-inflammatory medications to decrease inflammation and pain
After the swelling has subsided, which make take one to two weeks, our Orthopedic or Sports Medicine Specialists reassess the injury. A physical examination and MRI are performed and the findings help our specialists determine if the tear is serious enough to require surgery or if it can be treated without surgery.
ACL Tear: Nonsurgical Treatment
Partial ACL tears may sometimes be treated using nonsurgical treatment options and the goal of nonsurgical treatment is to stabilize and strengthen the knee.
Physical Therapy is the most common treatment option. Over the course of several weeks or months, a Physical Therapist prescribes exercises and treatment modalities to help the patient regain function. The patient is monitored closely and progress is tracked. Total recovery time is dependent on the seriousness of the tear and the patient’s response to therapy.
ACL Tear: Surgical Treatment
Some partial and most complete tears require surgical intervention. An ACL reconstruction is a minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery used to remove and replace the ACL. The ACL can be replaced using several techniques and one of the most common is taking a small graft from the patella tendon (under the kneecap) and using this graft to recreate the structure and stability of the original ACL. This graft is placed in the space where the ACL has been torn and is secured using small anchors.
At Active Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, this procedure is performed on an outpatient basis in an ambulatory surgical center or hospital. Total procedure time is usually less than an hour and it usually takes patients two weeks to recover from surgery and began physical therapy.
Physical Therapy following surgery is very important and the goals of Physical Therapy are to increase mobility, strength and function in the knee. Progress is tracked as the patient moves toward a complete recovery and return to a normal day-to-day life and competition/physical activities.
Seeking Treatment for an ACL Tear
If you have sustained a knee injury, it is very important that you see a qualified Orthopedic or Sports Medicine Specialist. At Active Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, all of our Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists are Fellowship Trained and experts in treating ACL injuries. We have locations in Hackensack, Montclair, Elmwood Park and Emerson, NJ.
Receiving an early diagnosis will help you fully recover as soon as possible. Please give us a call if you, or someone you love, is experiencing the symptoms of an ACL tear and one of our specialists will see you right away!