What is an ACL Tear?
The knee is comprised of four ligaments - one you have proably heard of is called the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. Sports ortho doctors break down injuries to the ACL by the following degrees of severity:
- Grade 1 Sprain: The ACL has experienced minimal tearing. In a grade 1 sprain, the joint is typically still functional, therefore surgery is not usually recommended.
- Grade 2 Sprain: The ACL has experienced moderated tearing. In a grade 2 sprain, the ligament is partially torn and may require surgery.
- Grade 3 Sprain: The ACL has experienced a complete tear. In a grade 3 sprain, the ligament has been separated and will need surgery to recover.
What Does an ACL Tear Feel Like?
When your ACL is torn, it is common to feel an initial pop in your knee. You may also experience the following symptoms:
- Severe knee pain
- Little range of motion
How is an ACL Tear Diagnosed?
When you come to see one of our knee specialists at Elite Sports Medicine, they will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and perform a physical exam. If they think you may have an ACL tear, they may use medical imaging to confirm your diagnosis.
Once diagnosis is confirmed, the team will come up with an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of your ACL injury and your lifestyle.
Do ACL Tears Heal?
ACL tears require surgery to heal. You may be able to return to light activity without surgery if you use a brace on the unstable knee. However, this would require a lifestyle change as the ligament will remain torn.
Can You Still Walk with a Torn ACL?
Believe it or not, you may be able to walk with a torn ACL. The severity of the tear will determine the capacity for which you are able to walk.
How to Prepare for an ACL Reconstruction
Your knee specialist should provide ample time for you to prepare for ACL reconstruction. Make sure you understand what your recovery looks like, including the amount of work you’ll need to put in to make a full recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask your knee doctor questions about the surgery or recovery period.
Prior to the procedure, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend physical therapy to reduce swelling. This will later aid in your surgery and recovery. If the surgeon has any more pre-op instructions, be sure to follow them as well.
You should plan for someone to drive you home. Because ACL reconstruction is an outpatient surgery, you should be leaving the surgery center the same day.
Other ways you can prepare for your surgery include:
- Have someone ready to help you around the house
- Understand that everyone’s recovery is different
- Have your crutches, ice machine, and other wound care supplies ready
What to Expect During the Procedure
You will most likely be under general anesthesia for your procedure. During the ACL reconstruction, your surgeon will replace your damaged ligament with a new one called a graft. Your orthopedic surgeon will likely be completing surgery for up to two hours.
After ACL Reconstruction
Following your ACL reconstruction, you should be good to head home. You’ll want to spend the next few days resting and icing that knee.
Your knee doctor should have prescribed physical therapy following your ACL reconstruction. A physical therapist will create a personalized care plan specific to your procedure and activity levels. You should adhere to guidelines provided by your knee specialist and physical therapist to maximize your recovery in a safe manner.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from an ACL Surgery?
Typically, individuals can return to work in a matter of weeks or months, depending on their line of work and your recovery period. You should generally stay away from high-impact activities like sports for 8-12 months.
How Long Does It Take Before You Can Walk After ACL surgery?
You should begin walking 2-4 weeks after your surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon may advise that you continue to use crutches until you are able to walk pain-free and without a limp. Remember, it’s best to follow that knee specialists advice to avoid seeing them again down the road.
Book an Appointment if You Have Knee Pain
If you believe you may have suffered a torn ACL, you should seek consultation from a knee doctor near you immediately. You can schedule an appointment with one of our expert knee specialists in Nashville, Franklin, or Brentwood, TN.
“Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries - OrthoInfo - AAOS.” OrthoInfo, orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/anterior-cruciate-ligament-acl-injuries/.