Tag Archive for: ACL Tear

ACL Tears: How spring sports can lead to unexpected injury

Of the four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most commonly injured. The ACL supports front-to-back and rotational joint function. It is very strong but not very elastic, so sudden twisting or stopping movements can cause it to stretch or tear possibly requiring ACL reconstruction surgery.

Spring sports in Colorado – from spring skiing conditions to slick, wet, or snowy surfaces – provide the unpredictable terrain that can lead to that unwanted sudden twisting or stopping. Heavy wet spring snow can unexpectedly grab and hold a ski and the resulting torque between the alignment of your feet and knees can cause an ACL tear. As can snowy, or wet and slick conditions that challenge athletes competing on grass, turf, or the track. When youth athletes sustain knee damage that includes multiple ligaments or the meniscus, ACL reconstruction surgery may be the best path to recovery.

ACL reconstruction requires advanced preparation and planning as well as careful post-operative care. Each patient’s ACL replacement surgery plan is unique and factors that shape that plan include age, fitness level, the severity of the damage, joint flexibility, swelling, and lifestyle activities.
Generally, ACL reconstructive surgery is performed between three- and six weeks following injury, allowing time for pre-surgery physical therapy, which is used to reduce swelling, maximize joint function and improve muscle strength to aid recovery.

In addition to preparing for surgery, it’s also important to prepare a support plan that allows for activity limits during recovery. Weight-bearing activities, driving and physical activities will be limited in the first weeks following surgery, so it is important to have an advanced plan to support the healing process.
ACL reconstruction involves removing the damaged ligament and replacing it with a graft tendon. The graft may be taken from the hamstring, quadriceps, or knee, or a donor tendon may be used.

The procedure is an outpatient procedure performed with general anesthesia. A specialized orthopedic surgeon will make two small incisions in the knee. The first incision allows a micro camera to guide the surgeon and the second is used as an access point for the surgical tools needed to perform the procedure. During surgery, the torn ligament is removed, and holes are drilled to anchor the new graft to the bones in order to restore joint stability.
Recovery will include an individual plan that may include pain relief, activity limits, and physical therapy. Although a walking aid is used to limit the weight-bearing burden on the joint for the first 7-10 days following the procedure, joint exercises will begin immediately and gradually progress as the joint function improves and pain tolerance allows.

Rehabilitation plans aid recovery from surgery and help patients adopt efficient body movements that reduce the strain on the ACL.
Many patients find substantial joint function restoration as early as two weeks after surgery. As the need for a walking aid subsides, activities such as driving may resume. A progressive physical therapy plan will strengthen the surrounding muscles to support joint stability and continued recovery. The return to full activity is typically achieved in six to nine months as a full range of motion is realized without joint or soft tissue pain.

Orthopedic specialists guide patients on recovery timelines and give clearance when it’s time to resume competitive sports or other activities that rely on knee strength and mobility. They will also provide recommendations on the use of a brace or any activity limits as each patient returns to their routine. By closely following the post-procedure rehabilitation plan and maintaining consistent communication with the orthopedic team, most patients can safely resume previous activities after a full recovery.

Learn more about CCOE’s sports medicine and knee specialists and treatment of ACL tears. Want to make an appointment? Contact us at any of our three convenient Colorado Springs locations.

ACL Tears vs PCL Tears

Our knee is important, as it provides us with a foundation to stand on. The knee provides stability and mobility, and is vital to all types of movement, especially for athletes. If you ever had any sort of injury, especially a knee injury, you probably appreciate how your knees power you through various activities. To avoid knee injuries, it helps to understand how your knees work and what you can do to protect them.

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) are the two major ligaments in the knee that work together to provide stability in the knee. They cross each other and form an ‘X’ which allows the knee to flex and extend without side to side movement. ACL and PCL tears are two of the most common and most serious knee injuries that happen to athletes. When you get an injury to the anterior cruciate ligaments or the posterior cruciate ligament, there are slightly different symptoms. 

What is an ACL Tear?

The ACL is one of the four main ligaments within the knee that connect the femur to the tibia. The knee is essentially a hinged joint that is held together by the medial collateral (MCL), lateral collateral (LCL), anterior cruciate (ACL) and posterior cruciate (PCL) ligaments.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a tough band of tissue joining the thigh bone to the shin bone at the knee joint, providing much needed stability. It runs diagonally through the inside of the knee, and when there is too much stress on the ligaments, it can result in a sprain or worse, the ligaments can be stretched too far or snap, causing the ACL to tear. 

ACL Tear Symptoms:

  • Pain in the knee
  • Swelling, which builds up over twenty-four hours
  • Loss of complete range of motion of the knee
  • Tenderness to palpation of the joint line
  • Pain and inability to walk on the affected leg
  • Unstable knee

The most common treatment for a torn ACL is arthroscopic surgery and ACL reconstruction.

 What is a PCL Tear?

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located in the middle of the knee, next to the anterior cruciate ligament. While the ACL helps prevent your thigh bone (femur) from moving too far forward, the PCL helps prevent your shin bone (tibia) from moving too far backward. 

The PCL is lesser known because it is not injured as frequently as the ACL. However, injuries to the PCL should be taken seriously, as this ligament significantly affects the stability of the knee. Injuries to the PCL typically occur when the tibia is hit by an outside force while the leg is bent. One big difference between PCL and ACL tears is that most PCL tears are only partial tears, whereas the ACL usually completely tears.

PCL Tear Symptoms:

  • Pain in the knee
  • Immediate swelling of the knee
  • Difficulty or impossibility of walking on the affected leg
  • The knee feels like it is going to “give out”

To diagnose and treat tears to the ACL and PCL, your doctor will evaluate your injury by checking the severity of your knee instability. An MRI will most likely be done to get a closer look at the knee joint. If the diagnosis is an ACL or PCL tear, arthroscopic surgery can be done to repair the torn ligaments. Recovery can be lengthy for this injury, and will most likely require extensive rehabilitation, such as physical therapy.

The doctors at Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence will do their best to get you back to optimal function as quickly as possible. To learn more about ACL and PCL tears, and how we can help, call our office at (719) 623-1050 to request an appointment. You can also schedule an appointment online.