The Anterior Cruciate Ligament
What is it?
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of four ligaments in the knee. It connects the thigh bone to the shin bone and provides stability of the knee joint. An ACL rupture can either be partial or complete depending on the severity of the injury.
What causes it?
ACL ruptures occur most commonly during sports that involve jumping/landing, pivoting, and changing direction. Around 80% of ACL ruptures that occur are considered “non-contact” injuries. This means that somebody may sustain an ACL rupture by landing awkwardly from a jump, pivoting while the foot is firmly planted, or suddenly slowing down/decelerating. Around 20% of ACL ruptures are considered “contact” injuries, for instance a direct blow to the knee during a tackle or collision.
Individuals who sustain an ACL injury often report hearing a loud pop in the knee, immediate severe pain, the inability to continue moving, rapid swelling, and the feeling of giving way or instability of the knee joint.
What happens next?
After sustaining an ACL injury, you should seek immediate medical aid from a physiotherapist or sports physician. The therapist will thoroughly examine and assess the knee joint and refer you for diagnostic imaging- i.e., an MRI to confirm or rule out an ACL injury.
Regardless of the extent of the ACL injury, it is essential to undergo a period of physiotherapy treatment. This will aim to reduce pain, swelling, normalise knee joint range of motion, regain and improve muscle strength, proprioception, and balance to perform regular daily activities i.e., walking, stairs etc. This is important to do regardless of the choice to undergo surgery or complete “conservative” or non-operative treatment.
Once an individual has regained close to normal function, it is essential to discuss with their treating therapist what happens next. Depending on the individual’s goals and what they are hoping to achieve (i.e. returning to elite sport vs everyday activities) they may undergo surgical reconstruction of the ACL or may not need surgery at all. Either way, rehabilitation from an ACL injury can take anywhere from 9-12+ months … so it is important you have a great, friendly, and supportive team around you to help you every step of the way.
The Beachside Physiotherapy family would love to help guide you through your specialised ACL rehabilitation.
Written by Kaylee Magrath