The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a ligament in the knee which provides stability to the knee, particularly during pivoting, twisting or fast paced movements. Injury to this ligament is becoming increasingly common. Most commonly it results from a non-contact twisting injury, although it can also happen during a collision or contact injury.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is important in maintaining rotatory stability of the knee, particularly in pivoting sports. It is often torn in pivoting movements off a single leg or single leg landing after jumping.
Natural History (What happens if I do nothing?)
The ACL has minimal capability to heal itself, so once ruptured, the laxity within the knee remains. If patients are experiencing symptoms from the laxity within the knee, or wish to return to high level twisting and pivoting sports, then ACL reconstruction is often recommended. Repeated instability episodes with associated swelling over time may lead to damage of articular cartilage and menisci which can result in degeneration of the knee over time.
The ACL does not heal on its own and it is generally not possible to repair it. Therefore, the ligament will need to be reconstructed. To achieve this, a ‘graft’ is obtained from another area of your body and then inserted in place of the old, torn ACL. Numerous graft options exist, including hamstrings, patella tendon and quadriceps tendon. Each case is unique, and your Orthopaedic Knee Specialist will discuss their preference of one graft over another for you.
This is followed by intensive rehabilitation and the patient should not return to pivoting sports for at least 6 months.