How to Diagnose an ACL Tear

04 March 2017

An ACL tear can be one of the most debilitating injuries for athletes and active individuals, as it severely impacts a person’s mobility.  The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the four ligaments that connect and stabilize the knee.  The ACL helps keep the knee mobile and flexible, which is why it’s also one of the most common knee ligament injuries.

ACL tears commonly occur when the knee is hyperextended and is forced to pivot at the same time.  For example, if you’re playing tennis and your knee is straightened, you might experience an ACL tear if you suddenly pivot on that knee to hit the ball. Women are often more likely to experience ACL tears due to different muscle anatomy and mass.

If you’re wondering if you have an ACL tear, see if you’ve experienced any of the following symptoms:

  • You heard a loud popping sound, followed by sudden pain;
  • You’ve experienced significant knee pain; and/or
  • Difficulty walking and/or running

ACL tears need immediate treatment in order to heal, as ligaments usually require the assistance of surgery and physical therapy.  To diagnose an ACL tear, you’ll need to visit an orthopedic surgeon, who can perform a physical exam, MRI, and an ultrasound to diagnose the ACL tear.

For patients who are sedentary or do little physical activities, treating an ACL tear may only require physical therapy and rest.  However, most patients will require surgery and physical therapy to heal the ACL tear, as this can help them return to their former function and quality of life.

Surgery of a torn or ruptured ACL involves using a substitute ligament or graft, which helps connect the ligaments to the knee again while giving the injured ligament time to heal.  This process can be done via arthroscopic surgery (which involves making small incisions and feeding the substitute ligament through the tunnels) or open surgery.  Patients with moderate ACL tears may benefit from arthroscopic surgery, while more severe injuries may require open surgery.

For more information on treating an ACL tear, schedule a consultation with Dr. Frank McCormick 

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