What is a Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament?

Known more commonly as a “torn ACL”, the anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four main ligaments found in the knee that works to provide support and motor function to the knee joint. Specifically, the anterior cruciate ligament is one of two ligaments that form an “X”-shape on the inside of the knee joint to prevent the knee from sliding back and forth. When the ligament becomes sprained, the fibers become stretched or torn. Typically, a second-degree sprain is considered a partially-torn ligament while a third-degree sprain is defined as a fully torn ligament.

Causes

The primary cause of a torn anterior cruciate ligament is injury, nearly always due to playing sports or participating in fitness activities. Because this tear most often occurs when the knee locks and twists or experiences a sudden change in movement or direction, these injuries are quite common in basketball, soccer, football, gymnastics and even skiing.

Other potential causes that are not as common, but still hold the possibility of tearing your anterior cruciate ligament, include:

  • Congenital abnormalities, such as a narrow femoral notch
  • Unexpected trauma or accident, such as a fall or misstep
  • Inactivity and lack of exercise, which eventually causes weak leg muscles and makes the knees more prone to injury

Symptoms

Symptoms of a torn anterior cruciate ligament include:

  • Feeling or hearing a “pop”-like sound in the knee at the time of injury
  • Instability in the knee, such as buckling or the feeling that it may “give out”
  • Pain and swelling
  • Limited mobility

Oftentimes, patients realize the moment they have torn their anterior cruciate ligament. Swelling may occur within the first few hours post-injury and is usually a sign of bleeding inside the knee joint. If you believe you may have stretched or torn your anterior cruciate ligament, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Prompt, proper care can go a long a way in avoiding chronic discomfort and long-term damage that can adversely affect your future mobility and athletic career.

The OrthoCARE Treatment Approach

OrthoCARE Institute is North Texas’s premier bone, joint and spinal center. Our experienced orthopedic surgeons feature comprehensive and compassionate non-surgical and minimally invasive treatments for a variety of conditions, including a torn ACL. Depending on the severity of your tear and your health history, it may be possible to use conservative treatments to heal your anterior cruciate ligament. These treatments will likely include a combination of the following:

  • Knee bracing
  • Focused exercise and physical therapy
  • Splinting and crutches
  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medication

Sometimes, surgery may be recommended as the most effective option for repairing a torn ACL. At OrthoCARE Institute, our focus on minimally invasive techniques generally means less trauma and a faster recovery for patients. A variety of surgical options can be implemented to repair a torn ACL, depending on your unique injury. Some of the most common surgical measures include:

  • Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that allows our surgeon to assess the full damage to your knee and make immediate repairs to stabilize the knee
  • Endoscopic reconstruction, a minimally invasive procedure that uses tiny incisions to place a tissue graft in the knee to encourage new ligament growth

Contact OrthoCARE Institute today by calling 972-573-7802 or filling out the form on our Contact Us page. We strive to help patients stay active, pain-free and healthy, so you can quickly return to the activities you love!