What is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury?
Our knee joint is formed where three bones of your leg meet: Thighbone (Femur), Shinbone (Tibia) and Kneecap (Patella). Kneecap protects our knees from any sort of sudden trauma, as it sits in front of the entire joint. Bones are connected to other bones through ligaments and they act like strong ropes holding other bones together.
Anterior Cruciate Ligaments of those athletes who participate in sports like football, soccer, hockey, etc usually get sprained or torn. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may have to undergo a surgery or physical therapy to regain full function of your knee.
According to severity of the injury, sprains are classified into different grades:
Grade 1 Sprains:
In the first level, the ligament is mildly damaged, hence it is classified as a Grade 1 sprain. The ligament has been slightly stretched, however it is able to keep the knee joint stable.
Grade 2 Sprains:
When the ligament is stretched enough to a point where it becomes loose, then it is categorized as Grade 2 sprains. It is also referred to as a partial tear of the ligament.
Grade 3 Sprains:
In a Grade 3 sprain, the ligament is completely torn and it is broken into two pieces. The knee joint hence becomes completely unstable.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament can be injured due to several causes:
Landing on your legs incorrectly from a jump
Direct collision or blow to your knee
Suddenly stopping while running
Changing direction rapidly while running
When you injure your Anterior Cruciate Ligament, you may feel discomfort while walking and may hear a popping noise. Within 24 hours of injury, your knee will start feeling pain followed by swelling. Do not return to strenuous activities even if pain and swelling reduces all by itself. There are possibilities that the cushioning cartilage (meniscus) of your knee may get even more damaged leaving your knee fairly unstable. You may also lose full range of motion.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear treatment varies depending upon the patient’s needs and lifestyle. An athlete involved in agility sports will most likely require a surgery to safely and speedily return to sports. Whereas, the less active people, usually old or those who do not perform exhausting activities with their legs and have a quieter lifestyle may do without surgery.
A completely torn ligament may not heal without surgery. But nonsurgical treatment may be effective for elderly patients or for those people who have very low activity levels. Plus, if the overall stability of your knee is not impaired in anyway, simple nonsurgical treatment should be adequate.
Bracing: Your doctor may advise you to wear a brace to protect your knee from any further damage. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be given crutches to keep you from putting weight on your leg.
Physical Therapy: Once the swelling has gone, your physiotherapist will sketch a rehabilitation program for you. Specific exercises will restore function of your knee and gradually strengthen leg muscles that support it.
Whether your treatment requires surgery or not, rehabilitation plays a vital role in getting you back on your feet and daily activities. Rehabilitation and a physical therapist helps you regain knee strength and motion. Physical therapy first focuses on returning motion to the joint and surrounding muscles.