Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It arises from the tibia (shin bone), travels superiorly, posteriorly and laterally, then inserts into the femur (thigh bone).
- Keeps the knee stable when the leg is flexed (knee is bent)
A tear causes the joint to lose stability.
Signs and Symptoms
- Pain, swelling, weakness and often instability of the knee
- At the time of injury, you might hear a pop and your knee may give away
What causes an ACL tear?
- Often injured by a twisting motion
- -e.g. falling while skiing or from a height
Initially treated with symptomatic management:
- Ice, elevation, physical therapy, and sometimes bracing
- -To reduce swelling, restore motion, strength and flexibility
If a patient remains symptomatic, surgical reconstruction of the ligament can be considered. This depends on severity of the injury and activity level of the individual.
Surgical Treatment: Knee Arthroscopy (ACL Reconstruction)
- Arthroscopic repair has the benefit of faster recovery compared to open techniques
- Not all repairs can be performed arthroscopically
- -Open technique may be required
- Torn ligament is replaced with healthy strong tissue or graft
- -From your own hamstring or patellar tendon (autograft) or another source including cadaveric tissue (allograft)
- Physical Therapy is an integral component to your recovery from surgery
- -Appropriate timing and progression is key to the outcome
- For further details on your rehabilitation, please see the Physical Therapy section in Patient Resources.
- Protecting your knee and maintaining strength is important after formal physical therapy has ended.
- A brace may be required for high-risk activities of sport involving twisting and turning motions.