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ACL Tears

What is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament connects the bottom end of the thighbone to the top of the shin bone. The PCL and the ACL together form an X within the knee joint and play important roles knee stability. It keeps your knee from shifting and twisting too far when you walk and run.

How do Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears happen?

When you turn or twist suddenly, your knee can buckle and twist out of place. During sports, getting stuck on the outside of the knee can tear this ligament. But many ACL tears happen when you plant and twist on the knee while running. Landing awkwardly after jumping is another common way to tear the ACL.

How are ACL tears treated?

The ACL does not grow back on its own. Minor sprains of the ACL can heal, but complete tears often need surgical reconstruction of the ligament. ACL surgery is usually done within the first few weeks of injury. Recovery time after ACL surgery can be as short as 6 months or as long as two years, depending on what your doctor recommends for your specific needs.

What happens during an ACL surgery?

ACL surgery is usually arthroscopic. The damaged parts of the ACL are removed and a new ligament graft is fashioned from other tendons or hamstring muscles. The graft is then formed into a new ACL and inserted into the joint, replacing the torn ligament with healthy tissue.

What kinds of tissue are used for ACL graft?

Tissue can be taken from your own body to be fashioned into a new ACL.  The most common tissue used are the patellar tendon and the hamstring tendons.  If you are still young and playing competitive sports at the high school or collegiate level, these kinds of ACL graft will generally give you the strongest tissue with the lowest chance of tearing it again.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend an allograft instead.  This type of graft causes less pain with surgery and can offer a faster recovery, so adults can get back to work and life sooner.  This kind of graft can have a higher rate of recurrent tearing for people at elite levels of athletic competition.  But it is strong enough for average adults in recreational athletics.

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