A Torn ACL Isn’t the End: Restore Your Knee With Physical Therapy
Responsible for abruptly ending many sports careers and giving a devastating blow to an aspiring athlete’s dreams, a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a serious and debilitating injury in the knee. These injuries affect 250,000 people in the United States every year and commonly occur while living an active lifestyle or playing higher-risk sports such as football, basketball, and soccer.
An ACL tear ranges from mild, with small tears in the ligaments, to severe —followed by pain and instability in the knee. With a completely torn ligament, the knee requires reconstructive surgical intervention to repair the damage.
But what exactly is the ACL, and how does it contribute to your daily life?
What is the ACL?
Your knee consists of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons that are all responsible for the stability and movement of the joint. The ACL is one of the four main ligaments responsible for connecting the femur to the tibia, running diagonally in the middle of the knee, and holding it in place while providing rotational mobility.
The ligament tears when the knee is overextended or there is a sudden change in direction and momentum. Awkward landing and pivoting maneuvers put stress on the ligament, resulting in a potential tear —which could be partial or complete.
One of the most common signs immediately following an ACL injury is the audible popping sound. Sometimes this feels like a noticeable crack or shift in the joint.
Directly following an ACL tear, you may experience:
Loud popping noise at the time of injury
Inability to put pressure on the knee
Loss of range of motion
Physical therapy for ACL tear recovery and prevention
In less severe cases, physical therapy for a torn ACL provides a nonsurgical treatment to rehabilitate the knee, improving the patient’s range of motion and strength. Patients who require surgical treatment will benefit from physical therapy before and after their surgery for critical healing and improved stability.
After experiencing a torn ACL, patients are even more at risk, with a 15% increase in the likelihood of re-injury. Proper strength training, mobility exercises, and conditioning will reduce your risk of a second ACL tear and even prevent a primary injury.
Depending on your goals and the severity of your injury, your board-certified PT will focus on pain control techniques, strength training, swelling management, and range of motion exercises to get you back on your feet and doing what you love.