An ACL injury, or anterior cruciate ligament injury is a common sports injury that occurs when the knee suffers a sudden, violent twist or hard impact. The ACL is one of four ligaments that support and stabilize the knee. Its name is attributed to the “X” form or shape it creates around the knee.

Who Gets ACL Injuries?

People who play collision sports such as football, lacrosse, rugby, ice hockey or even soccer are most at risk for this sports injury. Women who play these sports are several times more likely to suffer an ACL injury as men. One reason for this is because a groove called the intercondylar notch, which is narrower in women than in men and doesn’t give the ACL as much room to move. Women’s hips are also proportionally wider, which affects how the knee is aligned. Their knees are also less rigid than men’s, which makes them prone to hyperextension.

Symptoms

An ACL injury causes immediate and severe pain if the ligament ruptures. You may even hear a “pop” if you experience it. The knee tends to swell up, lose its range of motion and can no longer support you. You may need to be carried off the field.

If this does occur, before anything else, perform the RICE procedure. This is an acronym for REST, ICE, COMPRESS and ELEVATE – which means the knee has to be rested, soothed with an ice pack, compressed and elevated above your heart. Once this has been completed, then you should come visit our Sports Medicine clinic. We can put you on the proper path for healing and recovery.

Treatment

A minor ACL injury typically just needs rest to heal, and you might need to use crutches for a while until you can walk and jog normally. A rupture might need more extensive treatment, including physical therapy to return to athletic performance. Some exercises may include:

  • Exercises that strengthen the quadriceps
  • Core-strengthening exercises like the dead bug
  • Hip-hitchers
  • Box step-ups
  • Barbell squats to strengthen the lower limbs
  • Frankenstein walks

Prevention

It’s true that ACL and other injuries are a risk in many sports, but there are things you can do to lower the risk. It’s important to make sure that your body is aligned with your knees, especially since if you’re a woman. Do exercises to increase the strength in your hips and upper legs to take some of the burden off the knees. These exercises include squats, walking lunges and other exercises to strengthen your core and improve your balance. Always warm up and stretch before a game.

Though an ACL injury is frightening, with proper treatment you should return to the game within a few weeks to a few months. Following the prevention tips will lower your risk of getting an ACL injury in the first place.

For more information on ACL injury treatments, call our office at 806.350.BONE (2663).