From Pain to Progress: Healing After an ACL Injury
Are you an athlete or active individual who has heard about ACL injuries, but are not entirely sure what they are or how they occur?
Or you’re curious about what the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is and its role in the human body, movement and stability?
ACL injuries, which are sprains or tears of the anterior cruciate ligament, are a common type of sports injury that affects the knee. One of the most typical symptoms of ACL injuries is a sharp knee pain, often accompanied by swelling that can make walking difficult.
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This blog will cover the key aspects of ACL injuries, including:
What Causes an ACL Injury?
When Should I Seek for Medical Attention For an ACL injury?
Treatment Options For An ACL Injury
ACL Exercise For Injury Prevention
What is an ACL?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a bundle of tissue that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia) in the knee joint. This ligament plays a crucial role in maintaining proper knee alignment and limiting excessive movement in certain directions. It is one of the primary knee support ligaments and is situated in the middle of the knee joint, behind the patella (knee cap) and in front of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).
The ACL's primary function is to limit the forward movement of the tibia alongside the femur and manage the tibia's rotation. It helps to support the knee joint, maintain its stability, and prevent knee injuries during sports, running, jumping, and cutting movements.
According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, the ACL is one of the most commonly injured ligaments in the knee joint, particularly among athletes who engage in high-impact sports requiring quick stops and direction changes.
Understanding the function and importance of the ACL can help individuals take measures to prevent injuries and promote knee health. Maintaining strong muscles around the knee joint, using proper techniques during physical activities, and wearing appropriate protective gear can all help reduce the risk of ACL injuries.
The ACL plays a crucial role in stabilising the knee joint and preventing excessive motion of the tibia on the femur. injuries during physical activities. Individuals can take steps to protect their knee health through proven ACL prevention programs.
What causes an ACL injury?
Based on research, there are high ACL injury incidences in females; the large majority (80%) of ACL injuries in the AFLW have occurred during preseason training or in the first half of the season. According to Australian research, the rate of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in Australia is the highest in the world. Over the last 15 years, the rate has increased by 70% among people under 25.
ACL injuries occur due to sudden and forceful twisting or pivoting of the knee, particularly when the foot is planted on the ground. Direct impact to the knee can also lead to ACL injuries. These types of injuries are commonly seen in sports that require quick changes in direction and sudden stops, such as basketball, football, and soccer. Skiing is another sport where ACL injuries are frequently observed because of the twisting motion of the knee while the ski is still attached to the foot.
The severity of an ACL injury can vary, and the time it takes to recover will depend on the extent of the damage and the overall health of the patient. While mild injuries can usually be treated with physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises and allow the patient to return to normal activities within three to six months, more severe ACL injuries may require surgery and a longer recovery period of up to 9 to 12 months.
Even after the knee has healed, the patient may need to modify their activities and sports to prevent re-injury, as the knee may not be as stable as it was before the injury.
When should I ask for medical attention for an ACL injury?
Depending on how severe the injury is, an ACL injury can cause a variety of symptoms.
Some signs of a severe ACL injury that may require immediate medical attention include:
A loud popping sound at the time of injury.
Severe pain in the knee joint.
Swelling and bruising around the knee.
Inability to bear weight on the affected leg.
Instability or a feeling of looseness in the knee joint.
Limited range of motion in the knee joint.
Numbness or tingling in the leg or foot.
At ‘One Motion Athletic’ our Osteopaths conduct a complete assessment to establish the severity of your knee injury.
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A good diagnosis and treatment plan are essential to ensure a successful recovery because an ACL injury frequently occurs in conjunction with other knee problems such a meniscus rupture or cartilage damage.
Treatment options for an ACL injury
An ACL injury can be treated in different ways depending on how severe it is and the overall health of the patient. For minor injuries, our Osteopath would combine manual therapy and rehabilitation exercises to reduce swelling, restore mobility and strengthen the muscles around the knee. Wearing a knee brace during recovery can also help stabilise the knee and reduce pressure on the ACL.
However, for serious injuries, surgery may be necessary. ACL reconstruction is the most common type of surgery. ACL reconstructions involve taking healthy tissue from another part, such as the hamstrings, to repair the torn ACL.
Non-surgical options like bracing and Osteopath may be recommended in patients who are not looking to return to sport or are physically inactive.
It's important to remember that recovering from an ACL injury takes time, and it may take several months to regain strength and stability in the knee.
Working with an Osteopath or health professional with a background in ACL injury management is essential to develop a personalised treatment plan that meets your specific needs and goals.
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ACL Exercise For Injury Prevention
Resistance exercises and ACL prevention programs are super important for reducing ACL injury risk, as they develop proprioception and stability of the hips and ankle..
Here are few example strength exercises you may want to try:
Terminal Knee Extensions:
Sit with your legs straight out in front of you and a rolled towel under your heel. Slowly lift your heel off the ground and straighten your knee. Hold for five seconds and then lower your heel back down.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms extended in front of you. Slowly bend your knees, keeping your back straight, until your knees are at a 45-degree angle. Hold for five seconds and then slowly stand back up.
Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Lie on your side with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your feet together, lift your top knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis. Hold for five seconds and then lower your knee back down.
It's important to consult with an Osteopath before starting any exercise program for an ACL injury. They can help tailor a program specifically for your needs and monitor your progress to ensure you are doing the exercises safely and effectively.