ACL tear is a typical injury for sportsmen, people in whose life physical activity and regular workout are involved. The ACL tear is a trauma that can be simply recognized and immediately conducted to a specialist, who will precisely diagnose you and then, prescribe you the right approaches – whether medical products and drugs, physical therapy, surgery or other treatments.
Please, know that ACL tears occur as a result of twisting, hyperextending the leg, or pivoting – common moves in sports, especially football, basketball, soccer, tennis and skiing. ACL injury often occurs as a non-contact injury resulting in strains and tears. Interestingly enough, women experience ACL tears more often than men, possibly due to estrogen levels making their joints looser. Therefore, younger women and girls are at greater risk for ACL tears; however, women of all ages tend to have weaker quadriceps (muscle) and less control over their knees than men. In addition, anatomy and muscle function of the knee is different in women than in men thereby resulting in a tendency toward women having more knee injuries.
However, before going to your GP and asking from him or her to send you straight to the best orthopaedic specialist in town, better find out, if you indeed have ACL tear. To do so, you can simply follow and observe your personal symptoms and compare them to the symptoms we will describe and explain to you know. See the the top and the most common ACL tear symptoms now:
- Popping sound. You will definitely hear it. But this is not just a sound to be quite and listen for. A loud “pop” or a “popping” sensation in the knee. You may also feel a pop when the ACL tears. It is a very distinct sound and feeling.
- A very sudden and intense onset of pain. Most athletes report feeling a searing, burning, or intense pain immediately after the popping sound.
- Lots of obvious swelling in the affected knee within the first five to six hours. The swelling is brought on by blood and fluids from the tear flowing in and around the injured area.
- Can’t straighten or bend the knee all the way and the knee feels tight. You usually can’t put any weight on the knee without it collapsing or being very painful. Strains or sprains of the ACL may lead to a feeling that the knee is unstable or the knee may actually give way when you try weight bearing.
- Pain is almost immediate. Some people are afraid of having that ability not to pay attention on pain and underestimating traumas. This is indeed, very dangerous for athletes, which is why pain killers and stimulants, are forbidden during contest preparation, as a matter of fact. However, the pain for ACL tear is something you are not going to miss or mistaken with bruise or some other slight trauma. And be sure that the ACL tear is a serious one. Sometimes, it might even require surgery and long-lasting recovery period.
- Knee swelling occurs within an hour or two as blood from the ruptured ligament fills the knee joint. Walking is difficult, and the knee feels unstable. Because of the fluid within the joint, it may be difficult to fully extend or straighten the knee.
- A feeling of instability or “giving way” with weight bearing. In most cases, this is the time when the patient understands he needs to see a doctor. But what we recommend you is to seek immediate care if any injury to your knee causes signs or symptoms of an ACL injury. And regardless the type of the symptom you will experience. The knee joint is a complex structure of bones, ligaments, tendons and other tissues that work together. It’s important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis to determine the severity of the injury and get proper treatment.
- Suddenly slowing down and changing direction (cutting). Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another. The ACL, one of two ligaments that cross in the middle of the knee, connects your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia) and helps stabilize your knee joint.
- Sudden worsening of the situation. People who experience an ACL injury are at higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis, in which joint cartilage deteriorates and its smooth surface roughens. Arthritis may occur even if you have surgery to reconstruct the ligament. Multiple factors likely influence the risk of arthritis, such as the severity of the original injury, the presence of related injuries in the knee joint or the level of activity after treatment.
Most people who do not see a specialist right away resume their lives once the swelling from an ACL tear subsides. After a few weeks of rest, ice and painkillers, the knee will begin to feel normal and most people assume it has healed, but that is quite the opposite. Unlike torn muscles, a torn ACL does not heal by itself. Just because the knee feels better in a week or two doesn’t mean it is better. Before returning to any sports or physical activity, the knee should be checked. If the ACL is torn and nothing is done about it, returning to playing sports can cause re-injury to the knee. If the knee buckles a second time, there is risk for tearing the meniscus and other cartilage in the knee, thus making the injury even worse. A successful recovery of an ACL tear can take up to a year. It’s important that during this time you find an orthopedic specialist to assist in your recovery. Even if you do not plan to return to a particular sport, it’s important that a physician addresses your ACL tear. The physician can assist you with various courses of treatment from physical therapy to surgery.
Nonsurgical treatment may be appropriate for patients who are less active, do not participate in activities that require running, jumping, or pivoting, and who would be interested in physical therapy to return range of motion and strength to match the uninjured leg.
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), or ketorolac (Toradol), may be suggested to decrease swelling and pain. Narcotic medications for pain, such as codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), or oxycodone (Percodan, Percocet), may be prescribed for a short period of time after the acute injury and again after surgery.
The first three weeks concentrate on gradually increasing knee range of motion in a controlled way. The new ligament needs time to heal and care is taken not to rip the graft. The goal is to have the knee capable of being fully extended and flexing to 90 degrees. By week six, the knee should have full range of motion and a stationary bicycle or stair-climber can be used to maintain range of motion and begin strengthening exercises of the surrounding muscles. The next four to six months is used to restore knee function to what it was before the injury. Strength, agility, and the ability to recognize the position of the knee are increased under the guidance of the physical therapist and surgeon. There is a balance between exercising too hard and not doing enough to rehabilitate the knee and the team approach of patient and therapist is useful.