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Injuries to the Anterior Cruciate Liagment (ACL) of the knee are extremely common- and can be extremely painful. The ACL connects the upper leg bone (the femur) to the tibia (the lower leg bone).
1. There are three "grades" of ACL injuries. Most ACL injuries occur along with damage to additional structures of the knee. Most of these injuries impact the meniscus and articular cartilage. ACL injuries are divided into three different "grades" of seriousness. "Grade 1 Sprains" result when the ACL has been stretched, though the joint remains stable. "Grade 2 Sprains" result when the ligament is stretched to the point it becomes extremely loose. This is often considered a partial tear of the ligament. "Grade 3 Sprains" occur when the ligament is torn completely. This results in the joint instability.
2. ACL injuries can result due to several factors. These injuries are usually related to sports activity, such as football, or running. Examples of injury to the ACL may result include direct contact or collision, landing from a jump incorrectly, or slowing down suddenly while running.
3. There are several symptoms associated with ACL injuries. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and discomfort while walking. Your doctor will speak to you about your symptoms, and assess all structures of your knee, and compare it to your uninjured knee. For some patients, an X-ray or MRI may be necessary to confirm injury to the ACL. Most ACL injuries can be diagnosed simply with a physical exam of the knee.
4. Treatments vary by patient. Each patient is different, so each treatment for an ACL injury will be different. In most cases, these injuries are treated without surgery, with the patient either undergoing physical therapy or wearing a brace to prevent knee instability.
5. Physical therapy can help restore function to the knee, and strengthen the leg muscles.
6. ACL tears cannot be stitched together, so if surgery is required the ACL will have to be completely reconstructed. Most patients prefer arthroscopic surgery, which is less-invasive and requires less downtime than more invasive methods of surgery.
7. Intense Physical Therapy is require for a complete rehabilitation and to get back into sports