The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the two stabilizing ligaments that make it possible for you to bend your knee without excruciating pain. The ACL is a band of tissue that looks kind of like Big League Chew gum (ooh, lordy, that’s good gum!) and can be found by taking out your sharpest knife and slicing open your leg until you can see straight through to your knee joint. Of course, by the time you get there, you probably won’t be able to see anymore. The occupation that the body has assigned to your ACL is pretty simple: thwart all attempts made by your tibia to position itself ahead of the knee and the femur, while also providing homeland security by stepping in to keep your from hyperextending the knee.
ACL injuries began to spike in professional injuries over the decade or so. This type of injury typically is the result of either a slow fall with a half-twist, or else a rapid hyperextension such as when you leap and land. You may be able to tell when you have suffered an ACL injury because they are usually accompanied by a quite audible champagne cork-popping sound. If you don’t hear that popping sound effect and it isn’t so bad that you aren’t twisting and flailing in pain after it occurs, you can be sure something pretty bad happened when five or six hours later your knee area swells to the size of a small Buick. Medical diagnosis will be performed usually just by having a competent doctor walk into the room and look at it, though an MRI may be taken just to make sure the HMO is happy.
Treatment begins with wearing a splint and putting ice on it to reduce swelling. Keep the affected knee joint elevated above the heart. You will also be given anti-inflammatory medication. To actually reconstruct the significant damage that can result from an ACL injury, you’re talking about the infamous arthroscopic surgery. And how many of your favorite athletes have undergone arthroscopic surgery? Seriously, I’m asking, do you know? Not terribly long ago, the ACL repair surgery was nearly as frightening to an athlete as the injury itself, but the technology has improved considerably. Surgery now entails the reconstruction of the ACL by using far less intrusive incisions and what are called stab wounds that don’t scar as much as older surgical procedures. The patient’s own torn ligament strands are integrated into the repair process with part of the patellar tendon utilized as well. One thing that hasn’t changed very much is the recovery time. If you are an athlete, you can expect to be out for the season regardless of what sport you play; even professional athletes rarely make it back to performance level within a year.
Can an injury to the ACL actually be prevented? Not really, but there are a few steps you can take. The stronger the muscles around the knee, the better, get started doing squats to pump up them there thigh muscles. Running is highly recommended, though be aware that running can also result in an ACL injury. Cycling and even water aerobics can all contribute to making the potential for a devastating injury less likely.