Healthcare Library

Spanish Version
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury - aftercare

Cruciate ligament injury - aftercare; ACL injury - aftercare; Knee injury - anterior cruciate

A ligament is a band of tissue that connects a bone to another bone. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located inside your knee joint and connects the bones of your upper and lower leg.

An ACL injury occurs when the ligament is stretched or torn. A partial ACL tear occurs when only part of the ligament is torn. A complete ACL tear occurs when the entire ligament is torn into two pieces.

More About Your Injury

The ACL is one of several ligaments that keep your knee stable. It helps keep your leg bones in place and allows your knee to move back and forth.

An ACL injury can occur if you:

  • Get hit very hard on the side of your knee, such as during a football tackle
  • Twist your knee
  • Quickly stop moving and change direction while running, landing from a jump, or turning
  • Land awkwardly after jumping

Skiers and people who play basketball, football, or soccer are more likely to have this type of injury. Women are more likely to tear their ACL than men when they participate in sports.

What to Expect

It is common to hear a "popping" sound when an ACL injury occurs. You also may have:

If you have a mild injury, you may notice that your knee feels unstable or seems to "give way" when using it. ACL injuries often occur along with other knee injuries, such as to the cartilage called the meniscus. These injuries may also need to be treated with surgery.

After examining your knee, your doctor may order these imaging tests:

  • X-rays to check for damage to the bones in your knee.
  • An MRI of the knee. An MRI machine takes special pictures of the tissues inside your knee. The pictures will show whether these tissues have been stretched or torn.

If you have an ACL injury, you may need:

  • Crutches to walk until the swelling and pain get better
  • A brace to support and stabilize your knee
  • Physical therapy to help improve joint motion and leg strength
  • Surgery to reconstruct the ACL

Some people can live and function normally with a torn ACL. However, most people feel like their knee is unstable and may "give out" with more rigorous activities. Unrepaired ACL tears can lead to further knee damage, especially to the meniscus.

Self-care at Home

Follow R.I.C.E. to help reduce pain and swelling:

  • Rest your leg. Avoid putting weight on it.
  • Ice your knee for 20 minutes at a time 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Compress the area by wrapping it with an elastic bandage or compression wrap.
  • Elevate your leg by raising it above the level of your heart.

You can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not with swelling. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.

  • Talk with your doctor before using pain medicines if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or have had stomach ulcers or internal bleeding in the past.
  • DO NOT take more than the amount recommended on the bottle or by your doctor.

Activity

After your injury, you should not play sports or do other strenuous activities until you and your doctor decide what treatment is best for you.

If you have surgery to reconstruct your ACL:

  • Follow instructions on self-care at home.
  • You will need physical therapy to regain the full use of your knee.
  • Recovery after surgery can take about 6 months. But you should be able to do the same activities you did before.

If you do not have surgery:

  • You will need to work with a physical therapist to lessen swelling and pain and regain enough range of motion and strength in your leg to resume activity. This may take a few months.
  • Depending on your injury, you may not be able to do certain types of activities that could re-injure your knee.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider if you have any of the following:

  • Increase in swelling or pain
  • Self-care does not seem to help
  • You lose feeling in your foot
  • Your foot or leg feels cold or changes color
  • Your knee suddenly locks and you can't straighten it

If you have surgery, call your surgeon if you have:

  • A fever of 100°F (38°C) or higher
  • Drainage from the incisions
  • Bleeding that won't stop

References

Members of the Writing, Review, and Voting Panels of the AUC on Prevention and Treatment of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries, Quinn RH, Saunders JO, et al. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons appropriate use criteria on the management of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2016;98(2):153-155. PMID: 26791036 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26791036.

Niska JA, Petrigliano FA, McAllister DR. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries (including revision). In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 98.

Reider B, Davies GJ, Provencher MT. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries In: Reider B, Davies GJ, Provencher MT, eds. Orthopaedic Rehabilitation of the Athlete. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 32.

    • ACL injury

      Animation

    •  

      ACL injury - Animation

      Let's talk today about ACL injuries. Do you remember that old children's song that goes, The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone, and so on? Well the thigh bone's connected to the shin bone, and one of the four ligaments that connects these two bones is called the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. The ACL sits in the middle of the knee. It's main job is to prevent the shin bone from sliding in front of the thigh bone. So, how do most ACL injuries occur? Well, getting tackled in football is just one way to hurt your ACL. You could also over extend your knee joint while playing other sports, like basketball or soccer, or while skiing. Or, you could injure your ACL if you quickly change direction while running, or land the wrong way from a jump. Some ACL tears are just partial, while others are complete. The injury that has damaged your ACL can also tear other ligaments or cartilage in your knee. So, what should you do if you think that you might have a torn ACL? Well, if you've injured your knee and it swells up, hurts, or makes a popping sound, or gives way while you walk, you could have an ACL injury. So, stop whatever that you're doing; even if you're just about to score the game-winning touchdown. Try not to move your knee. See your doctor as soon as you can because you may need an MRI or x-ray so your doctor can see exactly what type of injury that you have. You can treat an ACL injury with ice, rest, and pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But you may also need physical therapy to get your knee moving normally again. If the tear is so bad that you can barely walk on your leg, your doctor may recommend surgery to rebuild your torn ACL. Whenever you run, jump, or play sports, take it easy on your knees. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about ways to prevent knee injuries during play. And if you ever hurt your knee so badly that your foot turns blue and feels cool to the touch, get medical help immediately because that's a sign that you've dislocated your knee joint, and you may have injured the blood vessels to your foot.

    • ACL injury

      Animation

    •  

      ACL injury - Animation

      Let's talk today about ACL injuries. Do you remember that old children's song that goes, The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone, and so on? Well the thigh bone's connected to the shin bone, and one of the four ligaments that connects these two bones is called the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. The ACL sits in the middle of the knee. It's main job is to prevent the shin bone from sliding in front of the thigh bone. So, how do most ACL injuries occur? Well, getting tackled in football is just one way to hurt your ACL. You could also over extend your knee joint while playing other sports, like basketball or soccer, or while skiing. Or, you could injure your ACL if you quickly change direction while running, or land the wrong way from a jump. Some ACL tears are just partial, while others are complete. The injury that has damaged your ACL can also tear other ligaments or cartilage in your knee. So, what should you do if you think that you might have a torn ACL? Well, if you've injured your knee and it swells up, hurts, or makes a popping sound, or gives way while you walk, you could have an ACL injury. So, stop whatever that you're doing; even if you're just about to score the game-winning touchdown. Try not to move your knee. See your doctor as soon as you can because you may need an MRI or x-ray so your doctor can see exactly what type of injury that you have. You can treat an ACL injury with ice, rest, and pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But you may also need physical therapy to get your knee moving normally again. If the tear is so bad that you can barely walk on your leg, your doctor may recommend surgery to rebuild your torn ACL. Whenever you run, jump, or play sports, take it easy on your knees. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about ways to prevent knee injuries during play. And if you ever hurt your knee so badly that your foot turns blue and feels cool to the touch, get medical help immediately because that's a sign that you've dislocated your knee joint, and you may have injured the blood vessels to your foot.

      Self Care

       

      Review Date: 4/21/2019

      Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
      adam.com

       
       
       

       

       

      A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
      Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.

      ways to give

      view all

      news room

      view all

      healthcare library

      view all
      Event Calendar

      Hunterdon Healthcare offers an array of educational events, including childbirth, healthy living and fitness classes.

      LEARN MORE
      Health and Wellness Centers

      Where health and fitness meet to help you stay healthy at every age.

      LEARN MORE
      Heart & Vascular

      Heart and Vascular Services Department brings world-class cardiovascular care to our community.

      LEARN MORE