What is an ACL Injury?
Injury to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in the knee is one of the most feared injuries across the sporting world. This is mainly because of the extensive rehabilitation involved and the prospect of needing surgical intervention.
The ACL is one of the major ligaments in your knee and provides support to the joint by restricting movement in unwanted directions.
Have I injured my ACL?
ACL injuries commonly occur in sports involving twisting/pivoting movements and sudden deceleration e.g. netball, basketball, soccer, football, skiing. They occur at a higher rate in females and although ACL tears can occur in isolation they frequently occur with a combination of associated injuries including meniscal, cartilage or MCL damage. The most common mechanism of injury is landing from a jump, twist or pivoting or trying to stop quickly. It often causes considerable pain, with the individual often reporting a ‘pop’, ‘crack’, or ‘something giving way’. Other symptoms include significant swelling, loss of range of motion and feeling ‘unstable’.
What do I do now?
Think you may have injured your ACL? Immediate treatment involves the implementation of the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) principles. If you have a physiotherapist nearby, e.g. at a sports field, try to get it assessed immediately. A physiotherapist will be able to assess the ‘laxity’ of the joint which is associated with ACL injuries, however, this is difficult to do once there is significant swelling. Regardless of whether there is swelling or not it is best to seek professional advice as soon as possible to assess the extent of the injury and implement an action plan for best management.
Do I need surgery?
Not everyone requires surgery! Not all ACL injuries require surgery and many people acquire great results with conservative rehabilitation in conjunction with a well-structured, individualised physiotherapy program. The decision to have surgery will depend on a multitude of factors including which structures in the knee are injured, the extent of the damage and the amount of instability in the joint. This is a decision best made with the help and advice of your physio and, if necessary, surgeon.
What is involved in rehabilitation after injury?
Rehabilitation will involve training to improve your range of motion, strength, balance and stability of the joint. Your physio will individualise your program to focus on any areas you need to work on and to address your rehab goals, whether that be to return to high intensity sport, work or just playing with the kids!
Need help with getting back from injury and achieving your goals?
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