The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the primary stabilizing knee ligaments. It helps to prevent the knee from slipping out of joint while performing sports and other activities that require pivoting, sudden stops and starts, and changes in direction.
"Typically, the injury occurs with a twisting or hyperextension stress and is accompanied by a painful "pop" and/or sensation of the knee giving way," said Dr. Matt Heckler. Most athletes are unable to return to play after the initial injury. Some athletes attempt to return days to weeks later but are slowed by recurrent instability.
"It is extremely important to make an accurate, early diagnosis after a knee ligament injury to discover exactly what has been damaged," explains Dr. Heckler. Injuries to the ACL are often accompanied by other injuries around the knee, such as tears in the meniscus, which is the shock-absorbing cushion in the knee joint, or damage to the cartilage, the covering of the joint.
The most frequent question after an ACL injury is "Will I need surgery?" Dr. Heckler says "The answer varies from person to person. Many factors must be considered including age, strength, and level of sports activity." For athletes and other patients involved in pivoting sports or labor-intensive jobs, ACL reconstruction surgery is recommended. For less active people, there is non-operative treatment. You and your orthopedic surgeon can discuss which option is best for your particular injury.
Dr. Heckler is board-certified, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Orthopedic Associates of SW Ohio. We have offices throughout the Miami Valley region to provide convenient, high quality orthopedic care to the community.