If you are an athlete or a sports enthusiast, you may have experienced or heard of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. This is one of the most common and serious knee injuries that can affect your mobility, stability, and performance. In this blog post, we will explain what an ACL injury is, how it can happen, the symptoms, how it can be treated, and how physiotherapy can help you return to sport safely and effectively.
What is an ACL injury?
The ACL is one of the four ligaments that connect your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia) and help stabilize your knee joint. The ACL prevents your shinbone from sliding forward too much and also controls the rotation of your knee.
An ACL injury occurs when the ligament is either stretched, partially torn, or completely torn. The most common injury is a complete tear or rupture. This can happen when you suddenly change direction, stop, pivot, land awkwardly from a jump, or receive a blow directly to the knee. ACL injuries are common in sports such as soccer, basketball, football, skiing, and tennis.
What are the symptoms of an ACL injury?
When you injure your ACL, you may hear a loud pop or feel a popping sensation in your knee. You may also experience severe pain and inability to continue the activity. Your knee may swell rapidly and feel unstable or loose. You may have difficulty or pain when extending your knee or putting weight on your leg.
How is an ACL injury diagnosed and treated?
To diagnose an ACL injury, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and how the injury happened. They will also examine your knee and check for signs of instability, swelling, tenderness, and range of motion. They may also order imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes of your knee pain.
The treatment for an ACL injury depends on the severity of the damage, your age, your activity level, and your personal goals. Some people may choose to manage their symptoms with conservative treatments such as rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), pain medications, and bracing. Others may opt for surgery to reconstruct the torn ligament using a graft from another part of their body or a donor.
Whether you choose surgery or not, physiotherapy is an essential part of your recovery process. Physiotherapy can help you regain strength, mobility, function, and confidence after an ACL injury.
Physiotherapy can help you return to sport after an ACL injury in many ways:
It can reduce pain and inflammation by using modalities such as heat, cold, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or laser therapy.
It can improve your range of motion and flexibility by using manual therapy techniques such as massage, mobilization, or manipulation.
It can increase your strength and endurance by prescribing exercises that target the muscles around your knee and hip joints.
It can enhance your balance and coordination by using exercises that challenge your proprioception (the sense of where your body parts are in space) and neuromuscular control (the ability to activate the right muscles at the right time).
It can prevent further injury or re-injury by educating you on proper movement patterns, biomechanics, posture, alignment, and injury prevention strategies.
It can help you achieve your goals by progressing you through different stages of rehabilitation based on your symptoms, function, and sport-specific demands.
How long does it take to return to sport after an ACL injury?
The time it takes to return to sport after an ACL injury varies depending on several factors such as the type and extent of the injury, the type of treatment chosen, the type of sport involved, and your individual healing response. Your doctor and physiotherapist will guide you regarding your individualized return to sport timeline. With proper treatment and physiotherapy, you can recover from this injury and return to sport with confidence and performance.
Interested in learning more? Contact the Advanced Physiotherapy team today.