Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is the ligament in your knee that provides rotational stability. It is also the most common ligament to sustain injury for athletes who engage in high demanding sports—the ACL can tear or suffer a sprain. Interestingly enough, this injury can happen even if you are not a die-hard athlete. Why? Because a sprain or tear can occur when you simply change direction rapidly or stop suddenly; a game of tennis, jumping up and down and landing on your feet incorrectly or slowing down while running, can all result in this type of injury.
If, in fact, one has injured the ACL, surgery may be required to regain full functionality of the knee. Much depends on the severity of the injury and how active the individual is and their desire to continue in engaging in some of the more challenging sports.
So how will you know if you have suffered an ACL tear or sprain? Patients report that they heard a popping sound in their knee. The knee might also give out, the appearance of swelling within the first 24 hours, as well as having difficulty in walking or bending the knee or losing full range of motion.
Treatments with an injured ACL varies depending on the patient’s desire to return to full capabilities. And because a torn ACL cannot heal without surgery, it becomes a lifestyle decision. Individuals in the older population may be more likely to forego surgery and live a less physically active life post injury. If the knee is still in tact, non-surgical treatment options are available.
Bracing the knee This will help to protect and increase the overall stability. Crutches may also be a recommended option—it prevents the patient from not putting weight on the knee until healing has occurred.
Physical therapy Once the swelling has subsided, physical therapy and an intense rehabilitation program will commence. The goal is to strengthen the knee and leg muscles to regain full range of motion and to protect the knee’s ligaments—all of which will assist in getting back to one’s normal daily activities. PT will also teach the patient preventative measures to avoid future re-injury.
Strength training. Regaining strength includes stretching, riding a stationery bike swimming or the use of low impact machines, such as a cross trainer, leg press machine, elliptical or treadmill. Strength endurance training is really the key to full recover post surgery, even for those who elect to not endure the surgical procedure.
What if you are older … let’s say 60 or older… can you have ACL surgery? The answer is YES!
According to Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, “patients aged 60 years and older with symptomatic instability from ACL injury can have good to excellent subjective outcomes with surgical reconstruction. In a smaller study, all patients during their last clinic visits, regained full range of motion and returned to sports or exercise, such as tennis, golf, gym exercise, and yoga. Preoperative radiographs showed no obvious evidence of arthritis in 10 (77%)”
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