ACL injuries are some of the most common sports-related injuries that doctors and chiropractors see. It occurs when one of the ligaments in the knee, the ACL, is torn. If left untreated, it can cause the person to have difficulty moving their knee or controlling its movements because of the breakdown of knee support. When this happens, the bones of the joint often rub against each other. Over time this can cause a condition called chronic ACL deficiency. Osteoarthritis can also occur due to the bones rubbing against each other, eroding the cartilage and meniscus. A chiropractor can help reduce the pain of an ACL injury and help prevent further damage.
What is an ACL Injury?
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a major ligament in the knee that connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone) in the knee joint and provides stability for the knee. An ACL injury does not occur gradually, but instead usually happens suddenly. Most often they happen when a person is playing sports and jumps, stops suddenly, or makes a sudden change in direction. Soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, downhill skiing, gymnastics, and football.
What causes an ACL injury?
Sports and fitness activities, typically ones that place stress on the knee, are the most common causes of ACL injury. Specific actions that can lead to the tears include:
- Pivoting when the foot is planted firmly
- Sudden stops
- Cutting or slowing and changing direction suddenly
- Landing incorrectly from a jump
- Being involved in a collision where the knee is hit or it causes any of the other listed actions
- Receiving a direct, sudden, hard hit to the knee
The resulting tear can be minor and small or it can be severe, including a complete tear. In very mild cases, the ligament may be overextended but still intact.
What are the symptoms of an ACL injury?
People who experience an ACL injury will often hear a loud POP when it occurs. Other symptoms of an ACL injury include:
- Severe or intense pain
- Swelling (begins in the first few hours after the injury)
- A feeling that the knee is unstable
- A popping sensation in the knee
- The knee feels like it “gives away” when bearing weight
- Unable to continue the activity they were doing when the injury occurred
- Loss of or decreased range of motion
Who is most at risk of having an ACL injury?
Statistically, when both men and women are participating in the same sports, women are more likely to sustain an ACL injury. Research shows that, generally speaking, women have a tendency to have an imbalance of strength in their thighs. Specifically, the quadriceps, the muscles in the front are typically stronger that the hamstrings, the muscles in the back. It’s the hamstrings that work to keep the shinbone from extending too far forward – the type of movement that overextends the ACL. Additionally, men and women athlete jump differently with women more likely to land in a manner that places extra stress on the knees.
How is an ACL injury treated?
There are several treatments for an ACL injury. Immediate treatment can help reduce swelling and pain that the injury causes. The R.I.C.E. model is the recommended self-care that the patient can do at home:
In some cases, surgery may be recommended, but usually the best course of treatment includes physical therapy and chiropractic care. The knee may be braced and the patient may have to rest for a while before beginning physical therapy. A chiropractor can help not only treat the ACL injury, but also help correct any muscular imbalances that the patient may have.