The anterior cruciate ligament, commonly called the ACL, is one of the most important ligaments in the knee. It is a thick, elastic band of tissue that runs from the bottom of the femur to the top of the tibia and helps stabilize the knee joint.
An ACL sprain or tear is a very common sports injury, especially in soccer, basketball, skiing and gymnastics. Injuries can occur from sudden deceleration (slowing down or stopping), hyperextension, or pivoting in place. For reasons that are not fully understood, injuries to the ACL are more common in women than in men.
If you tear the ACL, you may feel a sharp, intense pain or hear a loud “pop” or snap. This is typically followed by swelling, pain and instability. You may not be able to walk on the injured leg because it won’t support your weight.
A torn ACL does not heal itself. Pain and swelling will typically subside within several weeks, but the knee may still feel unstable. Most people receive physical therapy following an ACL injury to help regain full movement and improve muscle strength and stability. A brace may be recommended when surgery is not planned.
Based on your individual condition, a sports medicine specialist at Lancaster Orthopedic Group may also discuss the best surgical options for restoring the stability of your knee and getting you back on your feet as quickly as possible.
ACL reconstruction can be done to replace the torn ligament by grafting part of another tendon or ligament, usually from the knee or hamstring. This can often be done arthroscopically through small incisions around the knee and is usually followed by several months of rehabilitation.