Anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 times per year, someone in the United States tears their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Your ACL is a ligament in your knee that connects your shin bone to your thigh bone and helps to keep your knee stable when you run, jump, and walk.
W. Joseph Absi, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist who repairs and reconstructs torn ACLs with minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery and other therapies.
At Orthopaedics of Atlanta and Aesthetic Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Absi helps you get game-ready ASAP. Here’s what you need to know about recovering from an ACL tear.
An ACL tear is serious
If you’ve torn your ACL completely in two, or stretched it so badly it can’t stabilize your knee anymore, it won’t heal on its own. The symptoms of an ACL tear usually let you know right away that you need medical attention, including:
- Popping sound during the injury
- Intense pain
- Inability to bend or flex knee
- Inability to put weight on knee
- Fast swelling
Sometimes the adrenaline your body releases during a game may mask the pain of an ACL tear or sprain for a short period. But you probably can’t finish the game. And you shouldn’t try. As soon as you suspect an ACL tear, contact Dr. Absi.
Ignoring an ACL tear can cause havoc within your knee. An injury of that extent creates inflammation that affects all of the other soft tissues in the joint. An ACL tear — treated or untreated — increases your risk for arthritis, too, though treating it early reduces the risk.
Treatment depends on severity
When you come in for an ACL tear evaluation, Dr. Absi runs a series of tests and imaging studies to determine the extent of your injury.
He orders a digital X-ray to determine if you have any fractures. He also orders an MRI or ultrasound to examine how badly stretched or torn your ACL is, and to identify other soft-tissue damage.
If the tear is mild and you’re not a professional athlete, Dr. Absi may recommend non-invasive treatment, such as rest and rehabilitation. If the tear is severe or you need to return to your sport, he advises minimally invasive arthroscopic reconstructive surgery.
During surgery, Dr. Absi removes the torn portions of your ACL and replaces them with a graft taken from another ligament or a tendon. In most cases, he takes the graft from your own body, but if that’s not possible, he may use a sterilized graft from a deceased donor.
ACL tears need rehab, too
Surgery isn’t enough to get you back in the game. You need to rest and rehab your knee for a year or more so that the graft “takes” and your knee stabilizes.
During your recovery period, you work with a physical therapist (PT) to rebuild and strengthen your knee. Your PT and Dr. Absi evaluate your progress and make modifications to the way you move your knee and play your sport to reduce your risk for another ACL tear.
Don’t delay getting treatment for an ACL injury or tear. Contact our office by calling 404-334-2929, or request your appointment online.