A torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a common sports injury. The anterior cruciate ligament is located in the front of the knee. If you are playing a sport with a lot of sudden starts and stops, such as basketball, tennis, soccer, downhill skiing or gymnastics, you have an increased risk of this injury. The knee is a complex structure of many tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones, and prompt care by an orthopedic specialist can help to restore full function and mobility to your knee as quickly as possible.
Symptoms of a Torn ACL
The most well-known symptom of a torn ACL is a sudden and loud popping sound as the injury happens. You might also notice a popping sensation from within your knee. Swelling starts to develop within a few hours of your injury. The pain from a torn ACL is intense and you will be unable to continue with physical activity. You may even find it hard to stand up and bear weight on the affected leg. An orthopedic specialist will be able to assess your symptoms to determine if they are consistent with a torn ACL.
Diagnosis of ACL Injuries
An orthopedic specialist diagnoses a torn ACL by checking for swelling and tenderness in the affected knee and comparing it to your knee that does not hurt. The orthopedist may also move your knee to check on the extent of the injury. In most cases, the doctor will order an imaging study such as an ultrasound or an MRI. These studies show the soft tissue and any injuries. An X-ray cannot diagnose a torn ACL, but it can be used by your orthopedist to rule out other conditions that cause knee pain, such as a fracture.
Orthopedic Care for a Torn ACL
Orthopedic care aims to repair the torn ACL so that you can get your full range of motion and strength back. Until you can be seen by the orthopedist, the office may tell you to rest your knee, apply ice to it and wrap an ACE bandage around it. Elevating your knee on a few pillows can also help. The orthopedist will offer rehabilitative therapy to help restore your full range of movement and to reduce your pain. You might also receive anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications. In some cases, an orthopedic knee surgery is necessary in order to repair a severely torn ACL.