ACL injuries or Knee ligament injuries are seen commonly by the best orthopedists in town, as these injuries often times occur in aggressive or elite level San Diego athletes that yearn to return to play.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries or simply ACL injuries happen to hundreds of thousands of people every year. ACL injuries usually end play and can be extraordinarily painful. Although debilitating, they are treatable. You just have to make sure you know how severe your injury is and what you can do to treat the problem.
ACL injuries are actually quite common among people who participate in high action cutting sports, such as:
Levels of Severity with ACL Injuries
There are three categories of injuries based on what kind of damage has been done to the ACL:
- Grade 1 ACL injuries: This is the easiest ACL injury to heal. A grade one ACL injury is the result of the ligament stretching slightly. It does not cause the knee joint to become unstable.
- Grade 2 ACL injuries: This grade of injury is in the middle, and the least common of all knee injuries. A grade two type of injury happens when the ligament stretches to the point where it is unstable. It is more commonly known as a partial tear.
- Grade 3 ACL injuries: This ACL injury is the most severe. A grade three injury is labeled when the ligament is completely torn in half. This can cause the knee to become extremely unstable. Severe knee pain and an almost impossible time walking are common symptoms.
At the end of the day, the grade doesn’t really matter. To an orthopedist this injury boils down to those athletes that are able to compensate (ie, their knee is functionally stable) and those that can’t (ie, their knee is functionally unstable). Having a functionally stable knee means that that athlete is able to return to his/her level of customary play in cutting sports without the knee giving out. Generally speaking, one third of athletes will be able to return to play despite their injury with little to no intervention; one third of athletes will be able to return to play after engaging in directed physical therapy without surgery; one third will require surgery in order to return to play due to continued knee instability despite physical therapy.
Treatments for ACL injuries
Non-Severe ACL Injuries
If you only have a mild injury, you can, usually, use physical therapy to treat your injuries. Your physical therapist will have you go through a series of exercises and motions to help you regain full control of your knee again. It can take some time to heal completely, depending on the injury type.
Since this is so common with sports athletes, there are specialists who work specifically with athletes. The goal is to help them get back into their sport of choice as quickly as possible.
Severe ACL Injuries (ie, unstable knee)
One third of the athletes will require surgery to regain a stable knee, despite having engaged in physical therapy. With a physical examination and an MRI scan, a well-trained sports medicine surgeon can anticipate the need for treatment of various concomitant injuries: cartilage damage, meniscus tears, etc.
ACL reconstruction can be done in a variety of ways. First decision to be made is whether a patient chooses to use their own tissue or donor tissue to reconstruct the ligament. If a patient chooses their own tissue, the options are bone-patellar tendon-bone, or hamstring tendon, or quadriceps tendon. Although some surgeons may argue that one type of tissue is superior to the other, many studies have looked at this and there is little to no clinical difference.
If you have been told that you have an ACL tear or are concerned about a knee injury, contact our award winning sports medicine doctors at San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Clinic.