The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. It is responsible for stabilising the knee joint and preventing forward movement of the tibia, or lower leg bone. The ACL can be susceptible to injuries in a variety of ways, but the most common mechanism is a twisting force applied to the knee while the foot is planted. This type of injury often occurs during sports such as soccer, and basketball. The injury occurs because the body moves suddenly or quickly, causing the ACL to twist or pull out of place. You may also injure your ACL by twisting the knee too far forward or backward.
Types of ACL Injuries
There are three primary types of ACL injuries: strains, sprains, and tears. A strain occurs when the ligament is stretched beyond its normal range of motion. This can happen if the knee is bent too far backwards, or if the foot is planted awkwardly. A sprain happens when the ligament is torn, either partially or completely. This usually happens as a result of a direct blow to the knee, or from twisting or turning the knee while it is weight-bearing. A tear is the most severe type of ACL injury, and can occur either gradually or suddenly. Tears may be caused by repetitive stress on the ligament, or by a single traumatic event.
Symptoms of ACL Injuries
Common signs and symptoms of ACL injuries include:
- A loud popping noise or popping sensation in the knee
- Severe pain and swelling
- Inability to walk or continue sports activity
- Instability of the knee when bearing weight
- Loss of balance
- Loss of range of motion
How to Reduce the Risk of ACL Injuries
The best way to prevent ACL injuries is to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint. A good exercise routine would incorporate quadriceps exercises, hamstring stretches, and calf raises. Stretching before and after workouts is also vital to reduce muscle soreness and increase flexibility. Take caution when participating in sports, or even walking, not to make sudden twist and turn motions or overextend your knees. Other preventive measures include wearing proper footwear, avoiding excessive running, and strengthening the core muscles.
Care and Treatment Options
If you have already suffered an ACL injury, here are some ways to treat the symptoms:
- Ice the injured area often. Apply ice packs directly to the affected area for 15 minutes at a time, three times per day. Do not apply ice to the skin; instead, use plastic bags or towels to cover the area before placing the ice pack.
- Take over-the-counter or pharmacist-prescribed pain relief medication to help relieve inflammation and provide relief from stiffness. If these do not provide adequate relief, you will need to get stronger medication from a doctor.
- Wear compression socks when resting. Compression socks work by squeezing blood vessels and reducing swelling.
- Use crutches until the injury heals completely. Crutches allow you to move without putting pressure on the knee.
- Avoid high-impact activities and exercises involving the lower body until the injury heals.
- See a doctor if the injury does not heal properly. A doctor or orthopaedic surgeon can prescribe physical therapy and/or surgery to repair the damaged ligaments.
Medical Treatment for ACL Injuries
ACL injuries can also lead to long-term problems such as joint instability and chronic pain. More severe ACL tears may require surgery. As a result, it is important to seek prompt medical attention if you suspect that you have injured your ACL. A sports and orthopaedic clinic like OrthofootMD can diagnose, treat and support your ACL injury and recovery. Dr Gowreeson Thevandran is a well-experienced orthopaedic surgeon and sports injury doctor in Singapore for knee injuries and treatments including ACL reconstruction surgery and knee surgery. Set up a consultation with Dr Gowreeson today.