If you’re an athlete, there’s a good chance that you’ve at least heard of an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. Perhaps you or someone you know has suffered one, or you’ve watched a professional athlete on one of your favorite sports teams get sidelined by such an injury. ACL tears are among the most common sports-related injuries and in 2011 the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine reported around 150,000 ACL injuries.

If you take sports and your health seriously, learning about ACL tears and things you can do to prevent them is in your best interest.

ACL Fundamentals

Of the four major ligaments in the knee, the ACL is responsible for most injuries requiring surgery and time off the field. It is among the most critical ligaments in the knee, carrying much of the body weight, absorbing impact and preventing the lower leg from sliding forward. The ACL plays the critical role of giving the knee stability and allowing the rotational movement and pivoting that is so important in sports like basketball, football, soccer and many others.

Preventing ACL Injuries

Since an ACL injury can easily sideline an athlete for the season and cause a great amount of pain, it serves all athletes well to be proactive about preventing this type of injury. Each sport has its own set of demands and best practices for playing safely so be sure to use correct form when doing activities like running, lunging, squatting, accelerating and decelerating. Also, pay close attention to other muscles you commonly use like hamstrings, quadriceps and hip abductors; these muscles are critical in protecting the health of your ACL.

Indicators of an ACL Injury

There are instances when no amount of being proactive can prevent an ACL injury. This is especially true in contact sports like football, where getting tackled by the legs is a frequent occurrence. So how do you know if your ACL is torn? Swelling around the knee and bleeding inside are strong indicators of a torn ACL, as well as weakness in the knee and loss of balance. Of course, if you believe that you have suffered an ACL injury, you should immediately visit a board certified orthopedic surgeon for a thorough medical examination that will likely include an MRI scan and other ACL-specific tests.

Once you have been properly diagnosed, your doctor may advise that you have ACL surgery to protect your knee from further injury in the future. Performing arthroscopic surgery, your surgeon will replace the ligament with a graft made from tendon that may come from tendon on your body or from a cadaver. After the surgery, you will be required to perform specific rehabilitation exercises at home and undergo clinical rehabilitation as well. It could take 6 months or more before you are able to return to full sporting activities, depending on the success of the surgery and your progress.

If you have sustained an ACL injury Dr. Millstein can help you get back into top athletic form. You can schedule a consultation with him by giving us a call at (310) 595-1030 today!

Dr. Millstein

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