Diagnosis: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a major ligament that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone providing stability. A physical exam can diagnose a possible a tear of the ACL. MRI or ultrasound may confirm this diagnosis as well as show the severity of the tear.
Causes: Most commonly an ACL tear occurs during sports that involve sudden stops or starts or changes in direction. It may be caused by a direct blow to the knee, landing from a jump on an extended knee, or pivoting on a planted foot.
Symptoms: The most common symptoms associated with an ACL tear include knee pain and swelling, inability to place weight through the leg, and a feeling of instability and the knee may buckle. If a complete tear has occurred most people will seek medical attention by an orthopedic surgeon to determine if surgery is necessary. A strained ACL or small tears may heal with correct exercises, bracing and strengthening. Some people may avoid surgery by modifying their activities so there is less stress placed on the knee.
Our Physical Therapy Treatment: Goals of physical therapy will be to reduce pain, restore normal range of motion and allow for safe return to functional and leisurely activities. Treatment will most likely include:
- Mechanical diagnosis and treatment that focuses on pain management and improving range of motion and strength
- Balance and stability exercises
- Sport specific and functional exercises
If surgery is required, treatment will follow a specific protocol. You will likely be placed in a knee brace that will limit your range of motion. During the first 4 weeks, treatment will focus on controlling/reducing swelling, improving range of motion, and increasing tolerance for weight bearing exercise. Weeks 5-12 will focus on normalizing your gait pattern and improving leg strength and balance for return to higher activity levels.