An ACL injury is a potentially devastating diagnosis that can change the course of a patients life. The ACL is one of the primary stabilising ligaments in the knee. It connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) and prevents the knee from pivoting or twisting too far when we turn to change direction.
An ACL rupture commonly occurs when the knee twists too far, either on landing a jump or during sport from a tackle. We now know that there are factors that predispose certain patients to having ACL injuries, and it is important to assess and address these factors as part of a treatment protocol.
When an ACL is ruptured, many patients hear a pop or a crack in the knee and are in immediate pain. The knee usually swells as the injured ACL bleeds into the knee joint. It is also possible to sustain damage to the meniscus and cartilage of the knee joint when the ACL is injured. Following injury, if prompt medical attention is sought, then a diagnosis can be made and a plan put in place for rehabilitation and surgery if appropriate. Unfortunately many injuries are not diagnosed, and it is possible for a patient to recover from the injury and return to sport without realising that their knee is no longer structurally intact.
If the diagnosis is delayed, there is potential for the knee to be unstable which means that it will give way unexpectedly during daily activities or during sport. If this occurs, it is possible to damage the meniscus of the knee which in turn will lead to damage in the joint cartilage and subsequent osteoarthritis.
An ACL reconstruction is a procedure that aims to restore the stability of the knee by recreating the structure of the ligament. Typically, tunnels are drilled into the femur and the tibia and a graft of tendon taken from another part of the body (usually one of the hamstring tendons) is fixed through the tunnels. The complications associated with this surgery will be discussed individually with you during your consult. Following the surgery, a program will be put in place to guide your rehabilitation and return to sport.
Dr Maine’s preferred rehabilitation program – see ACL Reconstruction Information Sheet