The ABCs of Your ACL

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You’ve probably heard of the ACL in relation to tears suffered as part of a sports injury. But what exactly is the ACL and what does it do? The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is part of the connective structure of the knee joint. It links the top part the shin bone to the rear bottom part of the thigh bone and prevents the shin bone from sliding forward.

Patients with ACL injuries typically have suffered a twisting injury to their limb. They often recall hearing a distinct “popping” sound and have difficulty weight bearing following the injury. Severe swelling usually presents within 2-3 hours.

 

Treatment and Recovery

Though ACL tears will not heal without surgery, non-surgical treatment such as bracing and physical therapy may be advised for less active patients. For more active individuals, particularly those involved in sports requiring cutting and pivoting, surgical intervention is often advised to restore knee stability and prevent further injury.

The goal of surgery is to rebuild the ligament, typically via a tissue graft. Tissue may be harvested from the patellar tendon, which runs between the kneecap and the shinbone, or from hamstring tendons near the back of the thigh. Allograft, or donated tissue, may also be used.

Surgical reconstruction provides initial knee stability to allow normal and immediate rehabilitation. The graft takes 3-6 months to heal. Further rehabilitation is necessary to get back to preoperative activities. Patients should allow 7-9 months of recovery time before returning to high-level sporting activity.

At Steindler Orthopedic Clinic, ACL reconstructions are handled by our fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists. For more information about ACL reconstruction surgery, watch the video of Dr. Cory Christiansen below. Dr. Christiansen is now accepting new patients in Iowa City and at Steindler’s outreach clinic in Muscatine, Iowa. To learn more about ACL services or to schedule an appointment to evaluate an ACL injury, please call (319) 338-3606.