ACL injury and ACL tear (or Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury), is a common injury that affects the knee joint. The ACL is torn in about 70% of all serious knee injuries, which makes it the most common injury affecting the knee joint.
If you suffer from ACL injury or are seeking to prevent its occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
|ACL ligament injury image from
Principles of Anatomy and Physiology.
The picture on the right is a front-on view of the bones and ligaments that make up the right knee. In the middle of the picture there is a ligament called the "Anterior Cruciate Ligament." It is this ligament, most commonly referred to as the ACL, which is damaged in an ACL injury.
The ACL is responsible for restraining excessive forward movement of the tibia and limiting rotational movement at the knee joint.
How is the ACL Injured?
As with any sprain, an ACL injury is the result of excessive stretching or tearing of the ligament. The severity of the injury can range from a slight stretching to a complete rupture. An ACL injury most commonly results from:
Athlete's involved in sports that require a lot of running and change of direction and speed; (especially contact sports) are most susceptible to ACL injury. Sports that involve the highest risk are soccer, basketball, skiing, hockey and gymnastics.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of an ACL Injury?
The severity of the symptoms tends to correlate with the severity of the injury. In other words, the worse the injury, the worse the symptoms. The most common symptom of an ACL injury is pain and swelling at the knee joint.
Treatment for ACL Injury
A minor ACL injury is just like any other soft tissue injury and should be treated accordingly. This involves the application of R.I.C.E.R. (R) rest, (I) ice, (C) compression, (E) elevation and obtaining a (R) referral for appropriate medical treatment. The following two points are of most importance.
How do you apply ice? Crushed ice in a plastic bag is usually best. However, blocks of ice, commercial cold packs and bags of frozen peas will all do fine. Even cold water from a tap is better than nothing at all.
When using ice, be careful not to apply it directly to the skin. This can cause "ice burns" and further skin damage. Wrapping the ice in a damp towel generally provides the best protection for the skin.
How long, how often? This is the point where few people agree. Let me give you some figures to use, as a rough guide, and then I will give you some advice from personal experience. The most common recommendation is to apply ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48 to 72 hours.
These figures are a good starting point, but remember they are only a guide. You must take into account that some people are more sensitive to cold than others are. Also, be aware that children and elderly people have a lower tolerance to ice and cold. Finally, people with circulatory problems are also more sensitive to ice. Remember to keep these things in mind when treating yourself or someone else with ice.
Personally, I recommend that people use their own judgement when applying ice to them self. For some people, 20 minutes is too much. For others, especially well conditioned athletes, they can leave ice on for up to an hour at a time. The individual should make the decision as to how long the ice should stay on.
My personal recommendation is that people should apply ice for as long as it is comfortable. Obviously, there will be a slight discomfort from the cold, but as soon as pain or excessive discomfort is experienced, it is time to remove the ice. It is much better to apply ice for 3 to 5 minutes a couple of time an hour, than not at all.
During the first 24 to 72 hours after an injury, be sure to avoid any form of heat at the injury site. This includes heat lamps, heat creams, spas, Jacuzzi's and saunas. Avoid all movement and massage of the injured area. Also, avoid excessive alcohol. All these things will increase the bleeding, swelling and pain of your injury. Avoid them at all costs.
For major ACL injuries, including a complete tear of the ligament, surgery will be necessary. The specific procedures for each surgery varies according to the degree of damage done, the age of the patient, the activity level of the patient and if there are any other injuries to the knee joint.
There are a number of tests your doctor or physical therapist can perform to help determine the extent of the damage of the ACL. Depending on certain factors your doctor may also choose to perform an x-ray and MRI, but these are not always necessary.
As it is not possible to repair the ACL by simply reconnecting the torn ends, in most cases, surgery will involve using a segment of another healthy ligament to replace the damaged ACL.
After surgery, expect to be on crutches for one to three weeks. Full recovery, using a comprehensive rehabilitation program will generally take about three to four months and athletes involved in high demand sports can be back on the field in about six to eight months.
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
If you'd like to discover the tips, tricks and techniques the best trainers use to successfully prevent 95% of all soft tissue sports injuries, take a look at the Sports Injury Management training course.
You'll learn how to warm up and cool down properly; how to avoid overtraining; how to eliminate muscle imbalances; and how to care for pre-existing injuries.
You'll also discover a proven step-by-step procedure for rapid and complete recovery. Plus, how to make the injured area 110% stronger than it was before the injury occurred.
Go ahead and visit the information page to find out more, and see how you can successfully prevent and treat over 95% of all soft tissue sports injuries.