Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a strong band of tissue that connects your thigh bone to your shin bone and provides essential joint stability in your knee. ACL sprains and tears are leading sports injuries that put athletes out of the game.
In fact, up to 200,000 athletes suffer ACL tears each year, making it one of the most common sports injuries among student, recreational, and professional athletes alike.
ACL tears compromise joint stability, but seeking prompt care from sports medicine specialists could get you the recovery plan you need to return to your favorite activities. Our team at Dayton Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Center is here to diagnose and treat your ACL injury so you can get back in the game faster.
Understanding an ACL sports injury
The Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four major ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. The ACL is located in the center of the knee and connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia).
ACL injuries can occur in a variety of ways, including sudden stops or changes in direction, twisting of the knee, or direct impact to the knee. Athletes who play sports that involve jumping, cutting, or pivoting movements, such as soccer, basketball, and football, are at a higher risk of ACL injuries.
When the ACL is injured, it can partially or completely tear, leading to instability in the knee joint. ACL injuries typically fall into three different categories:
Grade 1 sprain
Grade 1 sprains are the mildest ACL injuries. Your ACL has stretched beyond its usual range of motion, but it hasn’t torn. It’s mildly damaged, but it can still stabilize your knee joint.
Grade 2 sprain
In a Grade 2 sprain, your ACL was stretched far beyond its typical range. It may now be loose, with noticeable joint instability.
Grade 2 sprains are sometimes called partial ACL tears, but partial tears are fairly rare. If your ACL is torn, it’s most likely a near complete or complete tear (Grade 3 sprain).
Grade 3 sprain
Grade 3 sprains are complete or full ligament tears. In these cases, your ACL has separated into two pieces, and you have little to no joint stability in your knee.
Common symptoms of an ACL injury include pain, swelling, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg. In some cases, there may also be a popping sound at the time of injury.
Nonsurgical treatment for ACL injury
Mild sprains and partial tears can sometimes be treated with conservative, nonsurgical methods. Depending on the severity of your injury and your lifestyle, our orthopedic team may start by recommending options like physical therapy or knee bracing.
Older people who aren’t athletes are generally the best candidates for nonsurgical ACL treatment. If you play sports or live an active lifestyle, you’ll likely need surgery to restore full mobility to your knee.
Surgery for ACL tear
Our surgeons at Dayton Orthopedic Surgery specialize in minimally invasive ACL repair with arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is a surgical technique that involves a small camera, specialized tools, and tiny incisions to repair your ACL.
During surgery, we reconstruct your torn ACL with a tissue graft that connects the two separate pieces of your ACL. The tissue may come from elsewhere in your body or from a donor.
Physical therapy is an important element of ACL tear recovery. After surgery, our team gives you a physical therapy plan designed to restore mobility, increase flexibility, and reduce your risk of future injury when you return to sports.
Minimally invasive surgery offers a shorter recovery time than traditional open surgery, but full recovery for an ACL procedure may still take up to six months or longer. As your body heals, you’ll be able to reintroduce your favorite activities.
Have you suffered an ACL tear? Partner with our sports medicine team at Dayton Orthopedic Surgery so you can get back in the game faster. We have three offices in and around the Dayton area. Contact the office nearest you online or over the phone for your first appointment.