What is ACL injury and Does it Require Surgery

If you are a soccer player, basketball champion or a football player you are probably familiar with the term ACL. While playing the game if you hear a popping sound and suddenly your knee is giving out under your body weight, you have most likely incurred an ACL injury. This will lead to immense pain and swelling in the knee and aches or tenderness in the joint within the next 24 hours.

What is ACL?

ACL is the acronym for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This ligament is positioned in the middle of the knee and connects the thighbone (femur) with the shinbone. It helps stabilize knee joints in the connections. Basically ACL provides rotational stability to the knee and prevents tibia (shinbone) from sliding out in front of the thighbone. 

While playing, if you pivot your firmly planted foot, or suddenly change direction, there are chances that you face ACL tear and this may cause damage to the surrounding ligaments and cartilage as well. 

According to the best orthopedic and sports injury specialist in Punjab, Dr. Tanveer Bhutani, ACL injuries occur during the game when the player suddenly changes direction or speed or improperly lands while in the game. ACL can be painful and needs immediate medical supervision under an expert. 

What are the Causes of ACL injury?

While playing the game if any one of the following happens and you hear a popping or cracking sound in the knee, you have succumbed to ACL injury:

  • Direct collision with a jerk with another player during the game can cause ACL injury.
  • If you suddenly stop with a thrust, you are likely to sprain the ligaments in the knee.
  • You may be required to change direction suddenly to accustom to the direction of the ball, and this rapid directional change can cause havoc to the ACL in the knee.
  • A direct blow in the knee from the force of the ball can be devastating for the knee.
  • You may land in an odd position from a high jump in the game and this can cause sprain in the knee.

Dr. Bhutani adds that apart from positioning or speed changes in the game, a few other factors can add to the vulnerability of the ACL tissue. If you are a woman, relatively weak muscle strength or any hormonal imbalance can add to the tenacity of the damage. Dr. Bhutani checks for arthritis or any other medical conditions that can aggravate the pain or delay the treatment response. ACL injury can aggravate the risk of developing osteoarthritis also. The severity of the injury, the positioning of the tissues and ligaments affected and the movement protocol post-surgery can affect the quality of motion and lead to the development of arthritis at later stages. Hence Dr. Bhutani recommends following precautions at all stages of the game.

How can you Prevent the ACL Injury?

Dr. Tanveer Bhutani advises the age-old adage to all his patients (of all age brackets)- ‘prevention is better than cure’. Sprains or ACL injury affects over 1,50,000 athletes annually and prevention can help mitigate these injuries.

ACL injury can cause disruption in the range of movement, feeling of instability and inability to walk without support along with incessant excruciating pain. Dr. Bhutani recommends the sports player to abide by the following precautions to avoid ACL injury trap:

  • Warm-up and Stretches

A physical therapist or a sports medicine practitioner always emphasizes on the importance of adequate warm up and stretches before practices to avoid any type of sports injury. The relevance of warm up techniques should not be undermined under any circumstances. Athlete trainers teach and advocate a set of specific warm up exercises pertaining to the game.

  • Targeted Strength Training

Athletes or players must focus on strengthening the core muscles. Exercises that help hips, pelvis and lower abdomen to gain strength must be done regularly under the supervision of a trained mentor. You must be adept at knee positioning at all times and focus on exercises that help you gain balance when jumping and landing from jumps.

  • Proper Footwear and Sports Gear

Proper footwear and padding relevant to the game is quintessential to prevent sports injuries. 

Also read: How to prevent sports injuries.

  • Balance Training

You must focus on exercises that strengthen leg muscles and in particular the hamstring muscles so that the knee can handle the overall body in proper balance. 

Is Surgery required for ACL injury Treatment?

Dr. Tanveer recommends physical examination, X-ray or may be an MRI to analyze the extent of damage. For inactive athletes the orthopedic may recommend physical therapy or braces to avoid pain and this may lead to slow partial recovery.

However for young and active athletes and players, arthroscopy or minimally invasive knee surgery is mandatory to be able to resume the game. During the surgery, a small incision or portal is made in the affected joint. With the help of camera and fiber optics, the orthopedic can light the internal space and then the surgery is conducted. ACL is reconstructed in the procedure using autograft (grafts from patient’s own knee) or allograft (donated tissue graft).

Dr. Bhutani advocates arthroscopy for ACL injury as it offers the view and a complete insight into the extent of damage which no X-ray or MRI can give. ACL reconstruction surgery gives the player an undisputed chance to revive the game and part away with the instability or pain in the knee. Surgery also delays or mitigates the chances of occurrence of degenerative arthritis at later stages.

Dr. Bhutani is the most experienced sports injury specialist and has conducted innumerable ACL reconstruction surgeries. 

Over to You

ACL cannot heal on its own because of the lack of blood supply to this ligament. If you are a sportsman who is active in the sport or if you have twisted your knee and damaged your ACL, get in touch with the best sports orthopedic in Punjab, Dr. Tanveer Bhutani at EVA Hospital. Let not the untreated ACL weaken the ligament further and cause instability. Adhere to the precautions and prevent the agonizing ACL injury.