Torn ACL? Spot the Signs and Symptoms
If you are an athlete, you’ve probably heard of an ACL injury. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four main ligaments in your knee that helps provide stability as you move and twist your body. It is often torn while doing sports that require sudden movement changes, jumping, or landing. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of a torn ACL so that you can seek medical attention if you’ve injured your knee and think you might have torn your ACL.
What is a Torn ACL, and How Does It Occur?
An ACL tear is a common and painful knee injury that occurs when the strong fibrous tissue connecting your thigh bone to your shinbone is damaged or torn. This critical ligament provides stability and support to your knee joint as you move, making it particularly susceptible to tears during dynamic activities that involve sudden stops, quick changes in direction, or awkward landings. Athletes participating in high-intensity sports, such as basketball, soccer, and skiing, are at an increased risk for ACL tears due to the intense stress placed on their knees during play. Factors contributing to an ACL tear may include a forceful, direct impact on the knee, an abrupt halt in motion, or a sudden imbalance while executing a jump or pivoting maneuver.
Torn ACL Symptoms – When To Seek Medical Advice
A torn ACL is often easy to spot as symptoms begin immediately following injury. These symptoms include:
- Hearing a popping sound at the time of injury
- Pain and an inability to continue the activity or sport you were engaging in
- Swelling (that often worsens for hours after the injury occurs)
- Instability in the leg or knee or the feeling that your knee is giving out
If you experience any of these symptoms after an injury or impact to your knee, it is important to seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider as soon as possible. A prompt evaluation by a medical provider can ensure that you receive appropriate care for your torn ACL. Certain tests can be performed to determine whether an ACL tear has occurred. Immediate treatment will vary depending on the severity of the torn ACL.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options for an ACL Injury
In the past there was only one treatment for a torn ACL, replacing it with a graft. While this is still necessary for 70% of tears, 30% of ACL tears can be repaired. This is done through a procedure known as PRESERVE ACL Surgery.
Diagnosis of a Torn ACL
When you meet with your orthopedic provider, they will inspect your injury, provide a diagnosis, and formulate a treatment plan. At G2 Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Dr. Goradia speaks with his patients about how they sustained their injuries, and provides a physical examination of the knee. He will also order an X-ray and MRI to confirm the diagnosis and extent of the injury, in addition to any damage done to other parts of your knee.
ACL tears generally require surgery to restore full strength and knee function. Without surgery, individuals will often continue to experience pain and the “giving out” sensation. This can cause further harm to the meniscus cartilage, which can lead to knee arthritis later in life. Dr. Goradia uses a minimally-invasive surgery called arthroscopy to repair a torn ACL. This allows him to repair with just a small incision and the use of a camera inside the knee. At G2 Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, we also provide patients with an ACL surgery recovery plan that includes follow-up visits with Dr. Goradia, your acl doctor, and coaching with a physical therapist.
Prevention Strategies – How to Reduce the Risk of ACL Injuries
Incorporate Specific Exercises into Your Training
If you are an athlete of a sport that requires sudden direction changes or landing on your knee, it’s important to engage in targeted training programs that focus on muscle strengthening, balance, and flexibility exercises. This reduces your risk of ACL injury as you strengthen the area around the knee, relieving the knee itself from undue pressures. Incorporate specific exercises, such as squats and lunges, that target the quadriceps and hamstrings to help stabilize the knee joint. Additionally, exercises that improve hip muscle strength and core stability can ensure your power and strength is coming from your whole body and not solely from your knees. Remember to also include agility and balance exercises into your routine as these can further improve your knee’s overall stability. Incorporating plyometric exercises that enhance muscular power and balance can play a vital role in reducing the risk of an ACL injury as well.
Utilize Proper Form, Equipment & Stretching Techniques
In addition to targeted training, ensuring proper form, equipment, and adequate stretching can also help reduce the risk of injury. Using proper technique in sport-related movements can help ensure that pressure is applied evenly and that you won’t overstrain your knees. Receiving proper coaching or attending technique workshops can help ensure that you are using the proper technique for your given sport or activity. As you practice, play, or ski, pay attention to your body’s signals and remember to rest adequately to give your knees time to recover.
Before you engage in any activity that requires using your knees, you should ensure that you have the proper equipment, including stabilizing footwear that fits properly. Lastly, maintaining flexibility through consistent stretching can help prevent ACL tears as it allows for a more extensive range of motion, which lessens the likelihood of sudden strain on the ligament.
G2 Orthopedics: Expert ACL Doctor
If you think you have a torn ACL, reach out to G2 Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. We provide high-quality care from your first visit through to your ACL surgery and recovery. Call (804) 678-9000 or complete the form today!