Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
Have you ever been kicking a soccer ball around and suddenly feel your knee buckle under you? Have you ever had to catch that rebound ball and stop on a dime to keep the ball in the court? Have you ever overextended yourself just a little bit to return that serve? Every day athletes across the county injure themselves. Oftentimes it's small muscular strains or sprains but every once in a while, an athlete will find they've torn a muscle or sprained a ligament. Every time you change direction rapidly, stop suddenly, slow down while running, land a jump incorrectly, or are hit with a direct contact or collision, you risk injuring your Anterior Cruciate Ligament.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (or ACL) is a muscle that connects the Patella (the kneecap) to the Tibia and Fibula (leg bones). It's a crucial muscle in the function of your knee joint - especially in facilitating the "back-and-forth" motion that we all use when we walk, kick or bend our knees. As you might imagine, athletes who engage in high intensity sports are more likely to injure themselves in this way- we most often see the injury in soccer, football and basketball players. An injury to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament can cause intense pain and ultimately be detrimental to the function of the knee. Those with a sprained ACL will notice swelling to the knee over the course of the 24 hours following the injuring incident, loss of complete range of motion in the knee, and ongoing pain associated with movement of the joint.
When a ligament is damaged, it's classified as a sprain. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there are three grades of ligament sprain - going from a relatively mild stretch of the ligament (Grade 1) to a complete tear (Grade 3):
"Grade 1 Sprains. The ligament is mildly damaged in a Grade 1 Sprain. It has been slightly stretched, but is still able to help keep the knee joint stable.
Grade 2 Sprains. A Grade 2 Sprain stretches the ligament to the point where it becomes loose. This is often referred to as a partial tear of the ligament.
Grade 3 Sprains. This type of sprain is most commonly referred to as a complete tear of the ligament. The ligament has been split into two pieces, and the knee joint is unstable."
If you think you might have torn your Anterior Cruciate Ligament it is vitally important that you see a doctor immediately. With a physical examination and oftentimes an X-Ray, a doctor will be able to best assess what degree of sprain you may have suffered and suggest the best course of medical care. Unless you live a sedentary lifestyle, most patients with a sprained ACL will require surgery to rebuild and reattach the ligament to the other muscles and bones in the knee joint.