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Understanding Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury

How is an ACL injury treated?

Your doctor may recommend different treatment options depending on your particular symptoms and the severity of your injury. Together you will also consider how your injury is affecting your lifestyle and your participation in your favorite activities.

Brace yourself.
While you and your doctor determine the extent of your injury and the appropriate course of action, you may be given a knee brace for support and stability. The brace will also help minimize the risk of aggravating the injury. During this time, your doctor may prescribe or recommend the use of anti-inflammatory medications (like aspirin or ibuprofen) and cool packs applied to the knee to reduce inflammation and pain.

Get the right moves.
A conservative course of action may serve you well if your doctor determines that you have only a partial ACL tear, your knee is stable during routine activities, and you completely refrain from participation in any high-risk sports and activities. In this case, your doctor may recommend several specific strengthening exercises to perform on your own throughout the day. In addition, your doctor may require you commit to a full course of physical therapy. During physical therapy sessions, a trained therapist will work closely with you to help reduce your pain, increase your motion, and improve your thigh and calf strength. As you progress, you will also be taught how to more safely engage in your favorite sport or activity, if appropriate.

Understand your surgical options.
Unlike muscles, ligaments don’t have their own blood supply and cannot heal themselves. If you are still experiencing pain after all other conservative measures have been taken, your doctor may suggest surgery to repair the tear, help relieve your pain and help restore your mobility. Surgical procedures to repair a torn ACL are aimed at restoring the stability and full function of your knee. Most ACL repairs involve surgical reconstruction, during which the ACL is replaced by another tendon from your own body (autograft).

Today’s techniques, matched with newer instruments, may allow your doctor to reconstruct your ACL during arthroscopic surgery (using a fiber-optic scope through a small incision). To secure your repair, your doctor will use pins or screws, such as Stryker’s Biosteon Bio-Composite Interference Screws and Cross-Pin System.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about the best treatment option for you.

Commit to feeling better.
After surgery, you will likely be able to go home the same day. You may have to wear a splint or brace for a period of time while you heal. Most people use crutches for the first few weeks. Full recovery from ACL repair may take up to a year. Rehabilitative physical therapy will require six to nine months. Complete rehabilitation often depends on your commitment to following your doctor’s recovery recommendations. It is critical that you don’t return to full activity too soon. Your doctor will help you determine how soon after surgery you can safely begin participating in routine, and then more demanding, activities.