ACL tear is a rip or tear in the anterior cruciate ligament. In layman terms, the anterior cruciate ligament is a major ligament in the knee. It joins the femur or thigh bone to the tibia. An ACL tear usually happens to athletes. In some cases, women who wear heels for a long duration in the day. A pop or cracking sound is heard at the time of the tear, and shortly after an ACL tear, the knee straps feeling unstable and wobbly, gets swollen, and bearing weight becomes extremely painful.
Getting an ACL tear treated as soon as possible is crucial because an untreated tear only deteriorates the condition of the ligaments and knee. This goes without saying because the pain of a tear is too severe that it does not let the patient carry on with his life. The treatment of the tear requires prior to rest and physiotherapy exercises and rest and rehabilitation after the surgery.
A proper physiotherapist can guide you about what exercises and stretches you should do to ease the pain after an ACL tear. It is always recommended by doctors to go into surgery for treatment of ACL tear after undergoing physiotherapy for at least three weeks. This helps in better recovery after the surgery and helps to reduce the risk of the injury.
Also Read- Exercises to do before ACL treatment
Grades of ACL tear
The level of ACL injury varies with the severity of the tear. The different types of ACL injuries include the following.
- ACL Sprain
- Avulsion Fracture
- Complex Ligament injury
- ACL Deficiency
ACL Sprains are further divided on the basis of severity into the following categories.
- ACL Sprain Grade I- This is the mildest type of ACL injuries. The treatment of Grade I sprain does not require surgery at all. It occurs when there is a stretch in the ligament. It can be treated with physiotherapy and exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist.
- ACL Sprain Grade II- These occur when there is partial ripping or tearing of the ligaments. There is severe pain, tenderness and swelling in the knee. The treatment options for this type of injury vary with the degree of damage.
- ACL Sprain Grade III- A Grade III ACL Sprain is seen commonly in athletes. This is the most severe type of ACL injury and causes extreme pain in the knee. The patient is unable to put any weight on the affected knee as there is a complete tear in the ligament fibers. Constructive surgery is the only treatment option available.
Causes of an ACL Tear
ACL tears and injuries are of sudden nature and are not caused over a period of time. These can happen in contact as well as non-contact sports. Commonly seen causes of ACL tears and injuries are:
- Pivoting or cutting maneuvers: When one suddenly plants his foot and changes direction around it, a tear can occur.
- Landing on one leg: While landing in games like basketball or volleyball, putting all the weight on one leg can be responsible for the tear.
- A direct hit to the knee: When the knee is bent or extended and suffers a blow, the ligaments are torn.
- Recurring stress on the knee: This leads to loss of elasticity in the ligament, which can cause its ripping or sprain.
- Twisting or a backward bend in the knee: This occurs when a jump is landed in an improper or awkward position.
Symptoms of an ACL tear
A popping sound is usually heard at the time of an ACL tear in some cases. However, this doesn’t happen to everyone who suffers such an injury. Some other usual symptoms of ACL injuries are detailed as follows.
- Swelling: Shortly after the injury, usually within 24 hours, severe swelling is seen. The swelling can be controlled by icing and by raising your leg by putting it on a couple pillows.
- Pain: In case of a Grade I ACL sprain, minor pain is felt. But in Grade II and Grade III injuries, severe pain is experienced. The pain can be eased by putting pressure on the affected area.
- Limited range of movement: It becomes extremely difficult to move around your leg after an ACL tear. Even normal movements hurt, and the knee is unable to support even minor body weight.
- Trouble in walking: It becomes very difficult to put weight on the leg, let alone walk in case the tear has caused severe damage.
The Best Treatment for ACL Injury- ACL Reconstruction Surgery
ACL Reconstruction surgery is performed to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament. The procedure involves the removal of the injured ligament and replacing it with tendon tissue. The tendon tissue can be from a donor or a healthy part of the knee. The replaced tendon joins the muscle to the bone.
After the surgery, a rehabilitation therapy course is completed by the patient under the guidance of a physiotherapist for a proper and quick recovery.
Also Read– Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery