The anterior cruciate ligament is one of four short, tough bands of connective tissue in the knee joint. These bands are strong, but flexible, allowing them to provide stability to the knee while also accommodating the movement of the hinge joint.
Often referred to as the ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament is the band that crosses in the front of the posterior cruciate ligament and it is responsible for the following:
- controlling the back and forth motion of the knee
- preventing the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur
- providing rotational stability to the knee
- An immediate, audible popping noise
- Immediate pain
- Swelling of the knee within three to six hours after the injury occurs
1. Find the Right Physician: In the case of knee injuries, it is imperative to see a qualified orthopedic specialists, such as the physicians who practice at Rothman Institute. Call 1-800-321-9999 today to set up an appointment with a member of our world-renowned knee team.
2. Get the Diagnosis: After a physical exam, x-rays and an MRI, the physician will be able to effectively determine the grade level of the sprain as well as whether or not there are also any additional injuries. Keep in mind that 50% of all ACL injuries occur along with damage to other structures. The x-ray will help the physician rule out the possibility of any fractures to the bones. Review of the MRI will show any additional damage sustained by the cartilage, meniscus or other ligaments. As far as assessing the damage to the anterior cruciate ligament itself, the breakdown below provides an overview of how this injury is usually diagnosed.
3. Ask About a Treatment Plan: Ask your physician how your diagnosis will impact the kind of treatment for ACL tear that you will need. As shown above, grade one or two level sprains indicate that the ligament has been stretched, but not torn. However, most cases are level three sprains, a diagnosis that refers to a complete tear and almost always requires a surgical solution. Nearly 100,000 cases (that's approximately 50%) of ACL injuries require ligament reconstruction each year. While surgery is never desired, the good news for Rothman Institute patients is that our success rates are high and long term patient outcomes are favorable.