What is an ACL tear?
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is one of the most common sports-related injuries that can occur during activities such as soccer, basketball, football, and skiing. The ACL is a ligament that runs diagonally through the middle of the knee joint, connecting the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). If you cross your middle finger over your index finger and lay it on top of your knee, your top finger represents the orientation of your ACL on that specific knee. It is responsible for providing stability to the knee and preventing excessive forward movement of the tibia. An ACL tear occurs when this ligament is stretched or torn, resulting in pain, swelling, and instability of the knee joint. However, there are rare cases where individuals injure their ACL with minimal pain.
What are the symptoms of an ACL tear?
The symptoms of an ACL tear may vary depending on the severity of the injury. However, some common signs and symptoms include:
Pain and swelling in the knee
A popping sound or sensation at the time of injury
Difficulty in bearing weight on the affected leg
Instability or a feeling of giving way in the knee (also a sign of meniscus tears)
Limited range of motion in the knee joint
Difficulty in performing activities that involve bending, twisting or pivoting of the knee joint.
If you experience and of the above symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
What are the treatment options for ACL tears?
The treatment options for ACL tears may vary depending on the severity of the injury and the patient’s individual needs. Some common treatment options include:
Non-Surgical Treatment: In cases of mild ACL tears, non-surgical treatment options such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.) therapy, and physical therapy may be recommended. Physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, improve range of motion, and restore function to the knee.
Surgical Treatment: In cases of severe ACL tears or for patients who have high physical demands such as athletes, surgical treatment may be recommended. Surgery involves reconstructing the damaged ligament using a graft from another part of the body (autograph) or from a donor (allograft).
Rehabilitation: Regardless of whether you undergo surgical or non-surgical treatment, rehabilitation is a critical component of the recovery process. At Hybrid Physical Therapy, we can help to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint, improve range of motion, and restore function to the knee. Our therapists will work with you to develop a personalized rehabilitation plan that meets your individual needs and goals.
What are the different graft types?
If your ACL tear leads to a surgical intervention, your surgeon may recommend a specific type of graft that will be used to replace the torn ACL. There are three main types of grafts used for ACL reconstruction: autograph, allograph, and synthetic grafts. Here is a brief explanation of each graft type and some reasons why one might be preferred over the other:
An autograft is a graft that is taken from your own body, typically from the patellar tendon or hamstring tendon. Other sites that can be used are the anterior tibialis and quad tendon. Autographs are the most common type of graft used for ACL reconstruction because they have a lower risk of rejection and infection. The advantages of using an autograph are that it is strong and durable, and it has the best chance of successfully integrating into your own tissue. However, the main disadvantage of using an autograph is that the harvesting process can cause pain and discomfort at the donor site.
An allograft is a graft that is taken from a deceased donor. Allografts are typically taken from the Achilles tendon or the patellar tendon of a donor who has passed away. The advantages of using an allograft are that it eliminates the need for harvesting from your own body and may have a quicker recovery time. Additionally, allografts are an excellent choice for individuals who have had multiple surgeries, as the tissue may not be suitable for an autograph. However, the main disadvantage of using an allograft is that there is a slightly higher risk of rejection and infection.
A synthetic graft is a graft that is made of man-made materials, such as polyester or carbon fibers. Synthetic grafts are the least common type of graft used for ACL reconstruction because they have a higher failure rate than autografts and allografts. The advantages of using a synthetic graft are that it eliminates the need for harvesting from your own body or using donor tissue, and it may be a good option for individuals who have had multiple surgeries. However, the main disadvantage of using a synthetic graft is that it has a higher failure rate, and the long-term durability of the graft is unknown.
There are several factors that will determine the graft type including your age, level of activity, and overall health. Your surgeon will be the one to decide which graft is right for you while weighing the pros and cons of each graft type.
How can I prevent an ACL tear?
While it may not be possible to prevent all ACL tears, there are some steps that you can take to reduce your risk of injury. These include:
Maintaining good physical fitness and conditioning
Using proper technique during sports and other activities
Wearing appropriate protective gear, such as knee pads
Avoiding activities that place excessive stress on the knee joint (take with a grain of salt).
Getting assessed by one of our physical therapists to determine any mobility or strength deficits that would lead to compensatory movement patterns.
How can Hybrid Physical Therapy help with your recovery?
An ACL tear is not something anyone plans for, but fortunately there are ways to help get you back to your full function and improve your quality of life. Allow one of our physical therapists to properly assess your movement patterns to determine if you’re at risk with your activity or sport. Our fitness classes will provide you with the ability to improve any deviations you may have to help with your performance safely. If you experienced an ACL tear recently or in the past, let one of our therapists give you the quality care on a 1-on-1 basis. Why waste your time and money visiting another clinic that will double or triple book you with another patient? Get the treatment you deserve.
Let Hybrid Physical Therapy be the ones to guide you to the road to success and optimize your performance.