When it comes to sports injuries, one of the most common has to do with the knees. Of the estimated sports injuries each year in the United States, 200,000 are related to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and an estimated 95,000 of those injuries are ACL ruptures, but not all of these are kid injuries, but they are injuries sustained while playing sports.
Kids and adults who play what are considered high-risk sports, especially those that involve pivoting, sliding and jumping, are more susceptible to injuries to their ACL. However, that doesn’t mean that you are immune to this injury if you go about your daily business of walking, shopping, climbing stairs, or getting in and out of your car.
Still, ACL tears are oftentimes considered sports medicine, and it is not uncommon for those who suffer from ACL injuries to see a sports medicine doctor, even if they themselves are not necessarily athletes themselves.
What is the ACL?
The ACL is located in the knee and an injury to the knee often results in a tear of one of two ligaments that are centrally located there. The ACL connects the femur and tibia bones. The ACL is long, running the diagonal length between the femur’s end and the top of the tibia. The primary purpose of the ACL is to prevent hyperextension and it also keeps the knee from rotating too far. The ACL is responsible for preventing the tibia bone from moving forward underneath the femur. Damage to the ACL occurs with either scenario.
Certain sports require a foot to be planted firmly and then a pivoting motion to follow. It’s not a good combination when the foot is stationary planted, the knee bends and the athlete makes a quick turn or directional change. The stress on the ACL often results in a tear of the ligament. The femur remains stationary while the tibia is driven forward, generally by an outside trauma resulting in a torn ACL.
When the knee is violently and suddenly twisted, an injury to the ACL can be the painful result. The person affected might feel or even hear their knee pop. An ACL injury, specifically a tear, is extremely painful and swelling is nearly immediate as an indication that blood is present in the knee joint. An athlete loses stability in the affected leg and if the tear is severe, buckling is likely.
Grades of ACL Tears
An orthopedic doctor diagnoses and grades ACL tears and plans treatment accordingly.
Grade 1 is minor and amounts to an uncomfortable stretching of the ACL. The leg may still be stable with such injuries.
Grade 2 is when the ligament is stretched to such a point that a partial ACL tear is the result. Surgery might be warranted. An orthopedic doctor will make the determination.
Grade 3 is when the ACL is completely torn resulting in instability of the knee and leg.
An orthopedist will diagnose the condition and, if necessary, refer the patient to an orthopedic surgeon. In a Grade 3 tear, arthroscopic knee surgery is nearly unavoidable.
Is knee pain keeping you from doing the things you love to do or interfering with simple everyday activities? Then it’s time to call Little Rock knee surgeon Dr. Bill Hefley. He can restore your mobility so you can get back your active lifestyle. Call (800) 336-2412 to schedule an appointment or use our online form.