Anterior Cruciate Ligament

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of fibrous tissue that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). The function is to limit twisting (rotational) forces through the leg.

The ACL is commonly injured or ruptured during running or snow sports. Changing direction (pivoting or side stepping) during running, the knee might give way and the sensation of “popping” can occur. During snow sports, impact at high or low speeds, incorrect fall out techniques or a failed binding release can also result in a tearing sensation accompanied by pain.

The knee can swell rapidly (within the first few hours following the initial injury), so the initial phase of treatment should be the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) followed by a visit to your Advantage physical therapist. There may be a need for crutches.

Depending upon the outcome of certain tests in the clinic, your physical therapist may send you on to an orthopedic or sports physician who would perform further evaluation and possibly send you for imaging (X-ray, MRI or CT) to determine the extent of damage. Treatment by an orthopedic surgeon would be required if a complete rupture of your ACL has occurred.

Prior to most surgical treatment a period of conservative treatment (physical therapy) is advised to reduce swelling, restore the knee joints range of motion, and build muscle bulk to help stabilize the joint.

After surgery, physical therapy recommences to overcome the effects of surgery, such as swelling, pain and movement. The duration before returning to daily life and sports activities varies from patient to patient, but the full recovery period usually takes a number of months.

The Advantage physical therapists have extensive experience in evaluating and treating ACL injuries and work closely with the area’s best surgeons in the treatment of their patients following ACL surgery.