What is an ACL injury?
The ACL is a strong band of fibrous tissue within the knee joint that attaches from the bottom of the Femur (thigh bone) to the top of the Tibia (shin bone). Its role is to provide stability to the joint, specifically by preventing the Tibia from being pulled too far forward.
As with all ligaments if they are stressed or pulled too far beyond their capacity, they are at risk of injury. This can range from a small, partial tear up to a larger partial tear and most severely a complete tear or rupture of the ligament.
It is common with ACL injuries, especially more severe ones, for other structures of the knee to be affected. The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and Medial Meniscus being the most common.
How do they happen?
How do I know if I have injured my ACL?
What to do if you think you have injured your ACL?
This acronym can be used for all acute injuries, not just knees.
(P)rotect – deload or restrict movement and use of the knee for 2-3 days to minimise further aggravation. This may include using crutches or knee brace if walking is too difficult.
(E)levate – Aim to keep your knee elevated when resting to reduce local swelling.
(A)void anti-inflammatories – the inflammation process is important for tissues to heal so we don’t want to limit this. Use pain relief such as paracetamol to help with pain.
(C)ompress – use a bandage or brace to help limit local swelling around the knee.
(E)ducation – understand your injury and how best to move forward by seeking professional guidance and assessment. If an ACL injury is thought to have occurred a scan may be organised to confirm.
Recent research has shown that applying ice after an injury can reduce the healing properties that you get from inflammation so avoid icing the knee, instead use the above methods to help control swelling.
‘LOVE’ stands for Load, Optimism, Vascularisation and Exercise and is used for management of your knee injury after the first 2-3 days. It encourages gentle movement and use of your knee as much as your pain and symptoms allow.
Working with a physio will help to guide you through this stage confidently and progress into the rehab of your knee injury.
If I have damaged or ruptured my ACL do I need surgery to fix it?
The short answer is no however, as with all things, it is slightly more complicated than that.
Previously, more substantial tears or ruptured ACL’s have mostly been managed by having surgery to repair the damage. It was thought that the ACL did not get a good enough blood supply to promote the healing needed for the ACL to repair itself. More recent studies have now shown that the ACL is able to spontaneously heal, even after a complete rupture! Meaning that surgery is not necessarily required to fix it.
We also know that managing an ACL injury conservatively (without surgery) can work for certain people. By rehabbing and strengthening up around the knee we can create the stability needed to manage daily activities and tasks without our ACL being fully recovered.
How do I decide whether to have surgery or not?
This is where we have to understand that everyone is different and your body and needs are individual to you. So, what works for you may not work for someone else and vice-versa.
Discussion around this with a professional is important to help you decide what management will be best for you. This should take factors such as lifestyle, your goals, return to sport, your understanding and preferences into account.
What will rehab for my ACL injury look like?
How do I get started?
If you are ready to book in then you can either phone the main desk on 0191 814 9717, or use our easy online booking system by clicking here and selecting the ‘Physiotherapy Assessment/First Appointment’ option at a day and time that suits you. You will usually be offered an appointment within 48 hours.
Like to speak to someone first?
No problem, please call the main desk and if needed we can have a physio call you back to discuss your specific situation.