ACL tears are a common injury, especially among athletes and individuals who participate in high-impact activities. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of an ACL injury is critical for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Understanding these warning signs will assist patients in seeking immediate medical attention and receiving the required care to recover quickly.
Anatomy and Function
The ACL is essential for knee joint stability and avoiding excessive forward movement of the tibia (shinbone) in respect to the femur (thighbone). The bones are connected by four ligaments that strengthen the joint capsule, strengthen the joint from the side and its inner part. Between the bones there is also a cartilage formation called the meniscus.
The ACL is vulnerable to injury due to its position and function during activities involving rapid stops, changes in direction, or direct strikes to the knee.
Mechanism of Injury
The cruciate ligaments are in principle very strong and stable, and their rupture occurs only during unusual movements in which a large external force is applied to the knee, especially when rotating the lower part of the femur, i.e. in the knee, outwards, while the upper part of the femur, in the hip, remains in a normal, straight position.
Injuries Occurring Without Physical Contact
Non-contact ACL tears are common in exercises involving turning, rapid deceleration, or landing from a jump.
Injuries sustained during contact
ACL tears can also be caused by direct impact to the knee, such as a collision with another player in sports.
Signs and Symptoms
Audible "Snap" or "Pop"
Many people claim to have heard or felt a distinct "pop" or "snap" at the time of their injuries.
Knee joint swelling is common and often happens within hours of an injury.
Tenderness and discomfort
The knee may be uncomfortable, particularly while bearing weight or bending the knee.
Individuals may feel unstable or have their knees give way during strenuous activity.
Limited Range of Motion
There may be difficulty fully extending or bending the knee.
In certain situations, bruising around the knee joint or along the shinbone may develop.
Walking can be difficult, and people may experience a sense of their knees "buckling" under them.
A healthcare expert will perform a complete physical examination, evaluating the stability, range of motion, and symptoms of ligamentous injury in the knee.
To rule out any related fractures, X-rays may be obtained. MRI, on the other hand, is the most effective diagnostic tool for seeing soft tissue injuries, including ACL rupture.
Not all ACL injuries necessitate surgery. Physical therapy, activity modification, bracing, and strengthening exercises may be used as non-surgical treatments to support the knee joint.
A non-operative method of treatment avoids a demanding operation and a long recovery.
However, there is a risk of knee dislocation, instability when moving and the possibility of injury to other parts of the knee. Due to constant improper loading, the knee joint wears out too much and in the long term painful chronic inflammation of the cartilage of the knee joint occurs.
The patient is referred to physical therapy with the aim of reducing pain and swelling and restoring range of motion. After that, to ensure knee stability as soon as possible, he is advised to do certain exercises at home.
Surgical reconstruction may be recommended if the ACL injury is severe, or the client is highly active. The torn ligament is replaced with a graft, which is commonly taken from the patient's own tissue or from a donor. Surgery is used if conservative therapy has failed to restore satisfactory movement stability, and when it comes to younger patients, regularly active people and, of course, professional athletes. Physical therapy lasts 6-8 weeks, while overall rehabilitation lasts 4-6 months.