What is an ACL tear?

The knee is the largest joint in the human body, allowing flexion, extension, and twisting movements. Since the knee has many components, such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones, it is susceptible to a wide number of injuries. One of the more commonly injured structures of the knee is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL, and its treatment if torn, is one of the most studied subjects in all of orthopedic surgery. This ligament is responsible for controlling the motion of the knee particularly preventing the tibia (shin bone) from shifting forward or rotating abnormally. The ACL runs from the middle of the femur (thigh bone) to the middle of the tibia. It is a very strong ligament, but trauma to the knee either through an accident or during sports play can cause the ligament to stretch beyond its normal capacity and tear, causing it to lose its stabilizing function. Dr. Alexander Brown, orthopedic knee specialist is extremely skilled at diagnosing and treating ACL injuries and tears for patients in Nashville, Tennessee and the surrounding areas. He understands a patient’s need to get “back in the game” as quickly as possible.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

ACL Tear

What are the symptoms of an ACL injury?

If you have injured or torn the ACL, often patients report hearing or feeling a “pop” in their knee during the time of injury. During game play, this can occur with pivoting on a planted leg, awkwardly landing on the leg, suddenly slowing down then cutting a new direction, or a direct collision/trauma to the knee. The patient may report that the knee felt unstable and had difficulty walking on the leg, or they may have been able to keep playing, but the knee “didn’t feel right”, thinking it might bend the wrong way. The knee often will swell and the patient will have difficulty moving the knee through a normal range of motion. If the ACL is injured but not completely torn, the knee may just feel unstable during game play.

How do you diagnose an ACL injury?

An ACL injury can often be diagnosed on the field if occurring in gameplay. A detailed history of the injury event and physical exam in the training room or office setting is the next step. X-rays will be obtained to look for any bone breaks or signs of an ACL injury to the bones, and an MRI will likely be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and look for other injuries to the meniscus, cartilage, or other ligaments.

How do you treat an ACL injury?

Non-surgical treatment:

If the ACL is strained or partially torn, non-surgical options are pursued such as protective weight bearing for a time, rest, icing, compression, and physical therapy to improve the knee range of motion, and maintain/regain muscle strength.

Surgical treatment:

If the ACL is torn, surgery, called an ACL Reconstruction is recommended to replace the damaged ligament and restore its function to aid in the knee’s stability. A torn ACL does not heal on its own in most cases. Dr. Alexander Brown has specialized training in arthroscopically reconstructing a torn ACL, and re-purposes tendons or ligaments from another part of your own body to act as your new ACL. Dr.  Brown reconstructs the ACL using either the patellar tendon or hamstring tendons from your own body. (These are called autografts). In select cases and circumstances, a tendon donated from another human being is used to reconstruct your ACL. (This donor tissue is called an allograft.)

It is important to select a surgeon like Dr. Brown who has extensive training and experience in ACL reconstruction. This type of surgery, although commonly required among athletes, should only be trusted to a surgeon who has the technical ability to replace the damaged ACL. Dr. Brown can discuss the surgery, your best options for a new ACL and your expected outcome.

Is a torn ACL career ending?

A torn ACL is common among athletes but does not mean the end of a promising career if the repair or reconstruction is performed correctly. Dr. Brown has specialized training in ACL reconstruction and can offer patients in the Nashville area the best chance at complete recovery. It is important to remember to follow Dr. Brown’s post-operative protocols for rehabilitation and strengthening. The recovery process is a “group effort” and has the best chance of a good outcome when the patient, the surgeon and the physical therapist work together. Most of Dr. Brown’s patients not only return to sports or athletics after ACL reconstruction, but feel their knee is stronger than before their injury.

How long is the recovery from an ACL tear or injury?

After Dr. Alexander Brown reconstructs your ACL, you will be in a brace for 4-6 weeks and allowed to bear weight as tolerated on the leg. During this protective time, your wounds and the reconstructed ligament are healing. However, physical therapy is key during this time to regain/maintain range of motion and keep the surrounding muscles from substantially weakening. Once the brace is removed, physical therapy continues for another 6 weeks, increasing the amount of fitness activities allowed as you get stronger and more confident. At around 3 months after surgery, running will be allowed, working toward more stressful actions like cutting or pivoting in the months that follow. Full return to sports can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months depending on a multitude of factors in the patient’s progress and the demands that will be placed on the recovering knee.

For more information on anterior cruciate ligament tears, ACL injuries and the treatment options available, please contact the office of Dr. Brown, serving patients in Nashville, TN and the surrounding communities, at Nashville Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, 615-284-5800.

REQUEST A CONSULTATION
Contact Us


Stay Safe!

Dr. Byrd and his team now offer appointments via telemedicine

  • New patient evaluation
  • Physical therapy
  • Follow-up patient care
CALL 615-284-5800 FOR APPOINTMENT