The Infamous Pop: How to Find Effective Treatment for ACL Tear

Christopher M. Aland, MD January 5th, 2015

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of four short, tough bands of connective tissue in the knee joint. These bands are strong, but flexible, allowing them to provide stability to the knee while also accommodating the movement of the hinge joint.

Often referred to as the ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament is the band that crosses in the front of the posterior cruciate ligament and it is responsible for the following:  

  1. controlling the back and forth motion of the knee
  2. preventing the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur
  3. providing rotational stability to the knee
The ACL is an extremely important piece to the knee’s total anatomy. In fact, it provides the knee with 90% of it’s stability. With over 200,000 cases of injury to this ligament reported each year, it’s no wondering that Rothman Orthopaedic Institute has become a leader in providing excellent care for patients requiring treatment for ACL tear and sprains. 
More About the Injury
While the ACL can be damaged due to direct impact, such as blunt force applied to the knee in the case of a car accident, this injury is more common in sports-related settings and in particular, in sports requiring athletes to frequently and quickly change direction. Basketball, soccer, skiing and football are commonly reported as activities that have caused sprains or tears to the ACL.
While older patients and children can sustain this injury and require treatment for ACL tears, the ligament is most frequently damaged in patients between the ages of fifteen and forty five. And among athletes, females are more likely than males to sustain an ACL injury.
This injury is often accompanied by the following symptoms:
  • An immediate, audible popping noise
  • Immediate pain
  • Swelling of the knee within three to six hours after the injury occurs
Diagnoses & Treatment for ACL Tear
If a patient believes that he or she has sustained an injury to one of the knee ligaments, there are a few important steps to take:

1. Find the Right Physician: In the case of knee injuries, it is imperative to see a qualified orthopedic specialists, such as the physicians who practice at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. Call 1-800-321-9999 today to set up an appointment with a member of our world-renowned knee team.

2. Get the Diagnosis: After a physical exam, x-rays and an MRI, the physician will be able to effectively determine the grade level of the sprain as well as whether or not there are also any additional injuries. Keep in mind that 50% of all ACL injuries occur along with damage to other structures. The x-ray will help the physician rule out the possibility of any fractures to the bones. Review of the MRI will show any additional damage sustained by the cartilage, meniscus or other ligaments. As far as assessing the damage to the anterior cruciate ligament itself, the breakdown below provides an overview of how this injury is usually diagnosed.

Injured ligaments are considered "sprains" and are graded on a severity scale:
Grade 1 : mild damage to the ligament, which has been only slightly stretched and is still able to help keep the knee joint stable
Grade 2: ligament is stretched to the point of being loose or partially torn 
Grade 3 (MOST COMMON): referred to as  a ”complete tear of the ligament” because the ACL is actually torn in two distinct pieces and is no longer able to provide any stability to the joint 

3. Ask About a Treatment Plan: Ask your physician how your diagnosis will impact the kind of treatment for ACL tear that you will need. As shown above, grade one or two level sprains indicate that the ligament has been stretched, but not torn. However, most cases are level three sprains, a diagnosis that refers to a complete tear and almost always requires a surgical solution. Nearly 100,000 cases (that’s approximately 50%) of ACL injuries require ligament reconstruction each year. While surgery is never desired, the good news for Rothman Orthopaedic Institute patients is that our success rates are high and long term patient outcomes are favorable. 

That means patients can get the treatment for ACL tear that they need and get back to the active lifestyle they love! Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction allows active athletic people to return to their pre-injury level of life on a consistently high basis. 

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