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ACL tears are one of the most common knee injuries. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) forms an “X” with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in the center of the knee to control back-and-forth motion in the knee.
ACL injuries are common among athletes, particularly those who participate in fast-paced, high-impact sports like soccer, football, and basketball.
Causes and Symptoms
ACL sprains and tears often occur during sports activity. Common causes include changing direction rapidly while running, stopping suddenly, slowing down, incorrectly landing a jump, or a direct collision like a tackle.
When an ACL tear occurs, you may feel a “pop” in your knee, and it may give out from under you. The injured knee may be painful and may begin to swell within 24 hours of the injury. You may lose full range of motion in the knee, and walking may be uncomfortable. Tenderness along the joint line is common, as well. If these symptoms are ignored, pain and swelling may go away, but the knee can be unstable. If you return to athletic activity in this state, you risk further damage to your knee.
Patients will need to undergo an examination to determine the severity of the damage to the ACL. This may involve a physical examination, medical history, and diagnostic imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs. Both nonsurgical and surgical treatment options are available. Recommendations for treatment will vary for each patient, based on their individual needs.
It is important to note that a torn ACL will not heal without surgical repair. In most cases, if the patient wants to return to sports activity, surgery is necessary. However, less active, older patients may be able to avoid surgery.
Nonsurgical treatment is most effective for patients who have a very low activity level. Nonsurgical treatment may involve bracing to prevent instability. Once the initial swelling and pain subsides, physical therapy may be recommended to strengthen the muscles that support the knee.
Surgical repair is generally the best option for patients who wish to continue participating in high-impact sports. In most cases, a torn ACL cannot be stitched back together. Instead, the ligament is reconstructed using a tissue graft. The patellar tendon is most commonly used for an ACL repair, but the hamstring tendon, the quadriceps tendon, or a cadaver graft may also be used.
During the procedure, your surgeon will use a small camera called an arthroscope to view the inside of the knee without having to make a large incision. Because this approach is less invasive, it often results in less pain after surgery and a quicker recovery time.
Once the tendon graft has been prepared, bone tunnels are drilled into the lower end of the femur (thighbone) and the upper end of the tibia (shinbone) to place the graft. A long needle is passed through the tunnel in the tibia, up through the tunnel in the femur, and out through the thigh. The sutures for the graft are placed through the eye of the needle, and the graft is pulled into position and held under tension while the surgeon fixes it in place using interference screws, spiked washers, posts, or staples.
Because ACL reconstruction surgery is minimally invasive, most patients are able to return home the day of surgery.
Physical therapy is very important to a patient’s recovery and outcomes. The goal of physical therapy is to restore full range of motion in the knee, strengthen the leg muscles, and improve balance and control of the leg. Full recovery and return to sports may take several months.
Treatment for ACL Tears in Beaumont, TX
The skilled orthopedic surgeons at Beaumont Bone and Joint Institute can treat a full range of sports injuries, including ACL tears. We offer both surgical and nonsurgical options to meet the needs of our patients. If you would like to learn more about treatment for ACL tears or schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, please contact us at (409) 838-0346 (Beaumont office) or (409) 729-5633 (Mid County office).