An ACL injury is the tearing of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. It is a major ligament in the knee. ACL tears are a very common injury. It commonly affects athletes, such as soccer players, skiers, and gymnasts. Non-athletes also experience ACL tears due to injury or accident. Additionally, ACL injuries occur in adults from ordinary wear and tear (planting, pivoting, twisting of the knee).
At Farmingdale Physical Therapy West, we see both contact and non-contact injuries to the ACL. Once 51% of the ligament is torn, the ligament essentially no longer exists. For the individual to return to sport activity, a reconstruction must be performed.
Physical Therapy & ACL Treatments
The proper treatment approach to a torn ACL begins at the time of diagnosis by the physician. A physician will determine whether surgery is needed or not. If surgery is the chosen approach, then physical therapy will be prescribed first.
Physical therapy will calm the damaged knee and regain range of motion. Additionally, physical therapy will provide proper mobility of the patella, decrease swelling and pain, and regain as much strength as possible.
Ultimately, the goal of physical therapy is to allow the surgeon to operate on a cool and calm knee thus offering the best outcome post-operatively.
Pre-Operative PT for ACL Injuries
Pre-operative treatment usually takes approximately three weeks. During this time, the above mentioned goals are met. We use a variety of modalities including icing the injured knee, electric stimulation, laser, ultrasound, and exercise as well as manual techniques like mobilization and massage.
Patients are instructed in knee sparring ADL (activities of daily living), ways to protect the knee during daily life. They are also instructed in balance activities to increase the patient’s awareness of the position of the knee when performing activities. Patients are given a home exercise program, which also acts to educate them for after surgery.
Post-Operative PT for ACL Injuries
Following ACL surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will provide instructions to your physical therapist. At Farmingdale Physical Therapy, our PTs will create an individualized treatment program to meet your specific needs and goals.
Your treatment program may include: bearing weight, icing and compression, bracing, strengthening exercises, balancing exercises, and more.
How Does an ACL Injury Happen?
Approximately two-thirds of all knee injuries are of the non-contact type. This includes landing incorrectly on the knee, cutting and turning maneuvers, and deceleration. Donor tissue must be used to replace the ACL. Three different donor tissues are used: the patellar tendon autograft, the hamstring autograft, and the allograft which is a ligament donated by a cadaver. We see more of these injuries in women due to the anatomical architecture of the lower extremity as it relates to the knee.
At the time of an ACL injury, the patient may hear a loud pop. Additionally, they will feel severe pain and inability to continue activity. Patients will also experience knee swelling that worsens for hours after the injury occurs and weight-bearing instability.