Anterior cruciate ligament injury: main causes and treatments

Anterior cruciate ligament injury it is a sprain or tear of the same ligament. It is a structure that is part of the knee joint. In fact, it is one of the most frequent injuries in athletes.

For example, it is very common in soccer players or basketball players. The problem is not only in its frequency, but in that the injury of the anterior cruciate ligament can be difficult to treat.

Even, in some cases requires surgery. Therefore, in this article we explain everything you need to know about it, how it occurs and what therapeutic options exist.

What is an anterior cruciate ligament injury?

Before explaining the anterior cruciate ligament injury, it is essential to know what it is. It is a ligament that runs diagonally across the center of the knee. That is, it is located within the joint. Join the femur with the tibia.

Its name derives from the fact that it intersects, forming an X, with the so-called posterior cruciate ligament. As an article published in Ortho Info, both are in charge of controlling the movement of the knee backwards and forwards.

An anterior cruciate ligament injury involves the ligament being sprained or torn. It usually takes place during certain sports practices that demand a lot of impact for this joint. For example, skiing or soccer.

What are the associated symptoms?

The anterior cruciate ligament injury appears abruptly. Many people claim that, when it takes place, feel or feel a loud clicking sound in the knee. In addition, it is very painful and it is usually almost impossible to continue with the movement or activity.

The knee often becomes unstable, so even walking can be difficult. Also, the leg's range of motion is lost. It is also common for a noticeable swelling in the joint to appear.

Causes of anterior cruciate ligament injury

As we just noted, the anterior cruciate ligament injury tends to occur during sports activities. What happens is that the structure is stretched beyond what is adequate and this produces a partial or total tear of its tissue.

It happens when you try to turn with your foot resting on the ground or when you fall after a jump with poor leg placement. It is also common when, while running, you change direction abruptly and slow down.

Another common cause is trauma. For example, this is one of the main etiologies in contact sports, such as American football or rugby.

In football it is a frequent injury due to the type of movement the knee is subjected to.

Risk factor's

There are a number of factors that increase your risk for this injury. The first thing is to participate in sports activities that require running, jumping or jerky movements with the knees. For example, sports like soccer, basketball, skiing, or rugby.

The risk is even higher if they are contact sports or if they are practiced on artificial grass surfaces. In the same way, the protections or the equipment used are another determining factor.

If you don't use proper footwear, knee pads or even well-attached skis, there is much more risk. Finally, not having much muscle strength in the legs can lead to injury.

Impact on athletes

Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament can have a great impact on athletes. Especially in those people who dedicate themselves exclusively to physical exercise. The reason is that it can be a complex injury to treat. In some cases, a full recovery is not even achieved.

How is an anterior cruciate ligament injury diagnosed?

To diagnose an anterior cruciate ligament injury, it is essential that the doctor knows how the accident occurred. In addition, you will need to carry out an examination of the knee to check for mobility, tenderness or if there is inflammation.

Although in some cases this is usually sufficient, Complementary tests are often used to rule out other injuries or check the severity. One of the most prescribed is radiography. With it you can see if there is any associated bone fracture.

Magnetic resonance imaging is also used. Contrary to what happened with X-rays, it allows you to see the soft tissues of the body. For this reason, damage to the ligaments or cartilage can be observed.

Treatments available for the injury

An anterior cruciate ligament injury is usually treated as an emergency due to pain and impotence. According to scientific articles, it is essential to perform first aid techniques when it occurs.

The so-called RHCE method. They are acronyms that mean rest, ice, knee compression, and knee elevation. Compression is usually done with an elastic bandage to provide stability to the joint.

Avoid moving your leg too much until you are seen by a doctor. Once the diagnosis has been made, the approach can be medical alone or combined with surgery. We explain it in the following sections.

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Medical treatment

In most cases, the medical treatment in addition to the first aid that we have just explained may be sufficient. Ideally, ice your knee every two hours for about twenty minutes at a time. This is intended to reduce inflammation.

It is also recommended to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. Physical rehabilitation is another of the fundamental pillars of treatment.

It must be carried out under the supervision of a physiotherapist. Through exercises it seeks to regain mobility of the knee and strengthen the adjacent muscles. It can help to significantly improve the injury, especially in people who are not professionally engaged in sports.

Surgical treatment

Medical treatment may not be sufficient to achieve full recovery from an ACL injury. As explained by specialists at the Mayo Clinic, surgery may be required if there is any other ligament or meniscus affected.

It is also indicated in professional athletes or in people whose injury interferes with daily life. It consists of removing all the damaged part of the ligament.

A reconstruction is done using a graft obtained from a tendon from another part of the body. Nevertheless, surgery also requires further rehabilitation. In addition, it can cause discomfort and certain complications, like any other intervention.

The surgical approach to this injury is necessary in severe cases in which damage to the articular cartilages of the knee is associated.

Recovery from anterior cruciate ligament injury

An anterior cruciate ligament injury requires a more or less long recovery period. In the case of athletes it is usually recommended that a year pass to play again more or less safely.

Otherwise, the risk of injury to the same knee increases dramatically. However, there is no exact payback period, it must be individualized.

An assessment should be carried out between doctors and physiotherapists to check the condition of the joint, strength and stability.

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Anterior cruciate ligament injury is very common

What we must bear in mind is that this injury has a very high incidence, especially in certain sports. That is why it is essential to take special care in activities such as football, skiing or basketball.

What's more, you always have to quickly consult with your doctor if you suspect of this injury. The immediate approach must be individualized, as well as recovery time and rehabilitation.