What is ACL?
ACL is short for the anterior cruciate ligament. It is a powerful knee ligament that holds the knee together by attaching the front of the tibia (the large bone in the lower part of leg) with the back of the femur (the bone in the upper part of the leg). Its role is to prevent hyper-extension of the knee. Anterior cruciate ligament also provides stability of the knee when the knee is bending, that is, while the tibia is sliding under the femur. It is comprised of two bundles, and damage to any of these two can result in loss of both stability and function of the knee. Unfortunately, the anterior cruciate ligament is prone to injury, especially by tearing. As it provides stability and ensures proper function of the knee, it is easy to imagine what happens if it is injured.
Injuries of anterior cruciate ligament
Injuries, that is, tears of anterior cruciate ligament can be either complete or partial. A partial tear of anterior cruciate ligament is condition where the anterior cruciate ligament has not been torn completely. In this kind of injury, the anterior cruciate ligament is still relatively intact, but there might be some looseness in the ligament and instability in the knee. Pain caused by partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament tis not not as painful as a complete tear, but is nevertheless quite uncomfortable. This type of tear is caused by a sudden shift in the joint. After the tear, the knee joint is susceptible towards giving out.
Symptoms of partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament
First symptom would be the audible sound of tearing of the ligament. Immediately after that, the knee becomes unstable and becomes painful. The knee where the injury happened also begins to swell, right after the tearing of the ligament or sometime later, and might become tender to the touch. Level of pain depends on the severity of the injury. The tear is most likely to happen in sports such as soccer, where motion involves lots of cutting or pivoting movements. But people who do not engage in any sport can also tear their anterior cruciate ligament. Diagnosis of the tear is done by the Lachman test and the pivot shift maneuver, or with arthroscopy.
The method of treatment depends on seriousness of the injury. The usual dilemma with anterior cruciate ligament tear is, whether it needs to be treated surgically or not? In some cases, a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament can be treated conservatively. This means that no operative methods will be used. Such treatment includes medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and an exercise or a rehabilitation program. It is also very important not to pursue high-stress activities because the ligament will tear completely, as it heals only very slowly. If surgery is recommended, then the goal is not just to patch the tear, but to reconstruct the ligament completely.