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Torn ACL: What Now?

You’ve all seen it — that moment when an athlete crumples to the ground, grabbing their knee, knowing the worst has happened. Sometimes it’s after a collision, but most scary is when there’s no contact at all and they just go down.

A torn ACL is a bitter pill to swallow for an athlete. They’re out of commission for months, facing surgery and rehab, with no guarantee they’ll be as good as before.

And yet, there’s hope. Today’s medical techniques mean most people with a torn ACL can eventually get back to normal.

At Sulkowski Family Medicine in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Dr. Thomas Sulkowski and the team have seen our share of ACL injuries. Here’s our best information and advice on the topic.

What is an ACL injury?

ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. It’s one of the major ligaments in your knee, connecting your thigh bone (femur) with your shin bone (tibia). Its job is to keep your knee stable by keeping those two major bones from separating and twisting apart.

ACL injuries usually occur when someone is participating in a sport or activity that requires a sudden stop or change in direction. Think about soccer, basketball, skiing, etc. Many people hear or feel a pop when the injury happens, although not everyone does.

An ACL injury can range from just a mild stretch or sprain to a partial tear all the way to a complete tear. In the United States alone, there are anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 ACL ruptures each year.

How is an ACL injury treated?

Treatment for your injury depends on its severity. If you have a sprain or a partial tear, you may be able to get by without surgery, especially if you’re only moderately active. In any case, here’s how the treatment protocol usually goes:

You start with first aid to treat the immediate pain and swelling that generally occur. Follow the well-known RICE guide:

You can also use medication at this point. Ibuprofen may be enough, or Dr. Sulkowski may need to give you a stronger prescription. Once the swelling has subsided, you can try a knee brace for support. Physical therapy follows to get your knee working correctly again.

If you’ve completely torn your ACL, we’ll likely recommend reconstructive surgery, where your ACL is removed and replaced with a tendon harvested from another part of your knee. More physical therapy follows after surgery.

How long does rehab take?

The entire treatment and rehabilitation process usually takes at least a year from when the injury first occurred. The road is long, but it’s been navigated by many previous travelers, and chances are you’ll be just as successful as them.

To find out more about how we treat an ACL injury, call Sulkowski Family Medicine or use our convenient online scheduler to set an appointment at a time that works for you. We look forward to helping you get back to normal as soon as possible!

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