Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury
Ligaments are tough, non-stretchable rope-like structures that stabilize our bones where they meet at our joints. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four ligaments that provide stability to the knee joint. The ACL is particularly important in providing rotational stability during the full spectrum of running, jumping and pivoting sports. Athletes who participate in such sports as basketball, soccer, football, baseball, tennis, skiing, and other sports that require pivoting are especially vulnerable to injury. An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament may result from either direct contact to the knee which causes excessive angulation of the knee joint or non-contact planting and pivoting with bending of the knee. When the anterior cruciate ligament is torn, patients may feel or hear a pop in the knee. The knee most often gives out and may quickly swell preventing movement and weight bearing. Initial treatment may include ice, compression, and elevation. A supportive device such as a brace or immobilizer may provide comfort but an evaluation by a sports medicine physician is most appropriate to determine the precise treatment.
Your sports medicine specialist will conduct a thorough physical examination of all of the structures of the knee joint to determine if the ACL is damaged. Plain x-rays may be obtained in order to ensure that there is no bony injury or fracture. An MRI is often obtained to help confirm that the ACL is damaged as well as to identify any other injuries that may have occurred to the knee structures. The anterior cruciate ligament has limited healing capability, and so because of this the knee has looseness that can prevent sport or work related activities.