The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the most commonly injured ligaments in the knee. Running diagonally through the middle of the joint, the ACL works together with three other ligaments to connect the femur (upper leg bone) to the tibia (lower leg bone). People who play sports that are likely to damage the knee -- such as basketball, football, skiing and soccer -- are at greatest risk for injuring the ACL. Only about 30% of ACL injuries result from direct contact with another player or object. The rest occur when the athlete decelerates while cutting, pivoting, or sidestepping; lands awkwardly; or plays recklessly. About half of ACL injuries are accompanied by damage to the meniscus, cartilage, bone or other ligaments in the knee.
ACL Injury Symptoms
Signs that you may have injured your ACL include pain, swelling and instability immediately after the injury, followed hours later by greater swelling and pain, limited motion, tenderness and an inability to walk comfortably. ACL reconstruction is usually not performed until several weeks after the injury, when swelling and inflammation have been reduced. The torn ligament is completely removed and replaced with a new ACL. Simply reconnecting the torn ends will not repair the ACL. Part of another ligament, usually from the knee or hamstring, is used to create a graft for the new ACL. Choosing the proper type of graft depends on each patient's individual condition.
ACL Reconstruction Recovery
ACL surgery requires a few months for full recovery and physical rehabilitation will be needed as well. Surgery is not required for all ACL injuries.