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ACL Tear in New Jersey

Pain, problems walking and swelling around your knee may indicate an ACL tear especially if you have recently injured your knee. Located in Totowa and Lafayette Township, Performance Rehabilitation offers diagnostic testing, treatment and physical rehabilitation for patients in New Jersey who have ACL tears.

What is an ACL Tear and what causes it to occur?

An ACL tear is unfortunately a common injury for athletes and involves the ripping of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that crosses the knee joint and serves to prevent movement of the lower leg (tibia) forward on the upper leg (femur).It occurs either spontaneously without impact with the foot fixed and the athlete’s upper body rotating away from the knee. This is a very common position in athletics and the forces exerted in this position can cause the ACL to fail. More commonly the athlete is in this position and hit by an opposing player causing the over-rotation of the upper leg on the lower leg to occur.

Experiencing an ACL tear during a game or while training can be a frightening experience. Many athletes hear a loud “pop” or “crack” in the knee when landing incorrectly from a jump causing the forward sliding and twisting of the knee that overloads the ACL’s ability to hold. The knee will immediately swell, and it is difficult for the athlete to put any pressure on that leg due to pain and instability.

For the vast majority of patients, an ACL tear will take place while playing sports or carrying out other physical activities. The ACL will typically tear when the athlete plants his or her foot in order to pivot, change directions or jump. If the knee becomes hyperextended or twisted during these movements, then the ACL will most likely become injured. Direct contact from situations such as a football tackle or auto collision can also cause an ACL tear, but most injuries take place with no contact whatsoever. Often times the medial meniscus and medial collateral ligament of the knee tear simultaneously with the ACL. This is referred to as the Unhappy Triad.

What are the Symptoms of an ACL Tear?

At the time of an ACL injury, signs and symptoms may include:

  • A feeling of instability as if the leg can no longer bear your weight
  • Severe and immediate pain after pivoting or turning
  • A loud “popping” sound from your knee
  • Swelling around the knee within a few hours of the injury

Who is at Higher Risk for ACL Injuries?

Female athletes are at the highest risk of an ACL injury due to a strength imbalance in their legs (weak vastus medialis) and increased Q-angle due to a wider pelvis, thus increasing the valgus angle of the knee (think knock-kneed position), resulting in the increased strain placed on the ACL.

How do Doctors Diagnose ACL Injuries?

Diagnosing an ACL injury is typically not a long or complicated process. The doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer will begin by inspecting your injured knee for swelling and tenderness, and then compare your injured knee to your healthy knee to find any differences in shape, strength or movement. A clear and accurate diagnosis can often be made from the physical examination and include a Lachman’s test, anterior draw test, and pivot-shift test.

Other tests may be required such as:

  • Ultrasound: The use of sound waves to visualize the internal structure of the knee including the bone, ligaments, tendons, and muscle.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This imaging process uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create clear images of the hard and soft tissue around the knee. These are often carried out to show the extent of the injury and if one or more ligaments are damaged.
  • X-rays: These are done to rule out a bone fracture.

Lifestyle and Homecare for ACL Injuries

Patients who prefer to avoid surgery should avoid sports and physical activities that require sudden pivoting, jumping, and cutting.

Self-care Treatments You can do at Home

We recommend home care that you can remember through the acronym “RICE.”

  • Rest: Avoid putting weight on your knee by using crutches.
  • Ice: Throughout the day, ice your knee for at least 20 minutes every two hours.
  • Compression: Compress the knee with a compression wrap or elastic bandage.
  • Elevation: Lie down as much as possible with your knee up on a pillow.

How do you treat ACL injuries?

Partial tears may be treated conservatively with physical therapy. If the athlete is young and competitive, a reconstruction is necessary to re-establish the integrity of the ACL. Physicians utilize different techniques and based upon the technique determines how post-operative physical therapy proceeds. Our physical therapists at Performance Rehabilitation work closely with your physician to maximize your recovery.

You can recover from an ACL tear to your knee with the help of the physical therapists of Performance Rehabilitation, located in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey. Contact us to schedule your personal consultation for an ACL tear evaluation.