Overview

ACL Injury

ACL Injury

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of four ligaments that stabilizes the knee. This strong fibrous tissue is part of a complicated network of tendons and ligaments that work together to stabilize and support the knee. An ACL tear is one of the most common knee injuries.

Athletes who participate in high demand sports like soccer, skiing, football, and basketball are likely to injure their ACL. If you have injured your ACL, you may require surgery to regain full function. Your doctor will help you determine if reconstructive surgery on your ACL is the right decision for you.

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ACL Tears

You can injure your ACL in several ways, like: 

  • Changing direction rapidly,
  • Stopping suddenly,
  • Slowing down while running,
  • Landing from a jump incorrectly, or
  • Directly colliding with someone, such as a football tackle.

Symptoms of an ACL Tear

When you injure your ACL, you might hear a popping noise or feel your knee

give out from under you. Other typical symptoms of an ACL tear include:

  • pain with swelling,
  • inability to move your leg fully,
  • tenderness along the joints, and
  • discomfort while walking. 

About half of all injuries to the ACL can also include damage to other structures in the

knee, such as cartilage, meniscus, or other ligaments. If you have additional injuries, your

physician might also treat them during surgery. This will depend on the type of injury and if you discussed this before surgery.

ACL Protection & Prevention Program

The sports medicine doctors at the University Orthopaedic Center have a long history of working with ACL injuries. If you are concerned about your ACL or have problems with it, consider making an appointment with one of our physical therapists. Working with our injury prevention specialists will help you maintain healthy activities while avoiding common injuries. 

ACL Injury Prevention Program Benefits

The ACL reconstruction and prevention program offers the following benefits: 

  • Identifies areas of compensation when the body is out of balance
  • Identifies areas of weakness to strengthen with an off-season conditioning program
  • Improves movement efficiency by focusing on mobility and stability of the muscles and joints
  • Helps athletes understand the relationship between functional movement and sport performance

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Treatment for ACL Injuries

Treatment for an ACL tear will depend on your individual needs. For example, If you are a young athlete who plays sports, you will most likely need surgery to safely return to sports. If, however, you don’t participate in cutting and pivoting movements, you may be able to return to a quieter lifestyle without surgery.

Most ACL surgeries are not done right away unless there are other injuries needing more urgent care. It is important to get the swelling down and regain knee motion before havingsurgery. Performing an ACL reconstruction too early increases the risk of scar tissue forming inthe joint, which would risk a loss of knee motion.

ACL Reconstruction

Arthroscopic Surgery

To rebuild an ACL, we can perform surgery with an arthroscope (a small flexible tube with a camera on it) inserted in a small incision or cut. With the help of this arthroscope, we can make small sutures or stitches.

Arthroscopic surgery is a less invasive surgery with these benefits:

  • less pain from surgery,
  • less time spent in the hospital, and
  • quicker recovery times.

Most ACL tears cannot, however be sutured (stitched) back together. To restore your knee stability, we must reconstruct the ligament through surgery. Your doctor will replace your torn ligament with a tissue graft.

Tissue Grafts for ACL Reconstruction 

Grafts can come from several sources, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. They can come from:

  • The patellar tendon, which runs between the kneecap and the shinbone.
  • Hamstring tendons, which are at the back of the thigh.
  • A quadriceps tendon, which runs from the kneecap into the thigh.
  • A donor graft (allograft). 

You should discuss which graft to choose with your surgeon. After surgery, regrowth of the graft into the ligament takes time. It may be six–nine months or more before you can return to sports after surgery.

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