Condition: Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament

A torn cruciate ligament is a very common knee injury.

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What is a Torn Cruciate Ligament?

A torn cruciate ligament is a very common knee injury. The cruciate ligaments are found inside your knee joint and cross each other like an ‘X’, the anterior cruciate ligament in front, and the posterior cruciate ligament behind it. They provide stability for the knee in everything from day to day function to extreme sport. They are supported by the muscles around the joint.

Anterior Cruciate ligament injuries can occur along with damage to other structures in the knee including articular cartilage, meniscus or the other ligaments.

Sometimes the cruciate ligament can be stretched, sprained or partially torn, which may result in some symptoms but without the severity of a complete tear. This distinction can only be made with the help of an MRI scan.

What is the cause of a Cruciate Ligament Tear?

A torn cruciate ligament can happen in several ways:

  • Changing direction rapidly
  • Stopping suddenly
  • Slowing down while running
  • Incorrectly landing after jumping
  • Direct contact or a collision, usually through playing sport.

It is commonly seen in skiing injuries or football and basketball but can occur with fairly innocuous twists. These injuries are rarer in patients over the age of 45.

Symptoms of a Torn Cruciate Ligament

After a tear of the cruciate ligament, you may hear a popping noise and feel your knee give out from under you. You may also feel any of these symptoms:

  • Pain and rapid swelling
  • Loss of full range of motion
  • Tenderness along the joint line
  • Discomfort while walking

The most important symptom is that of instability, ie your knee giving way. This occurs when twisting or changing direction. It can happen in day to day activities, in light sport or only in extreme sport. The situations in which you experience your instability or apprehension is important information for your surgeon in determining the best course of treatment for you.

Treatment for a Torn Cruciate Ligament

The severity of the damage will depend on how your OneWelbeck Orthopaedic consultant will treat you. You will more than likely be sent for imaging tests in our OneWelbeck Imaging centre and your consultant will carry out a physical examination of your knee. The decision on best treatment is curated for your personal needs based on your functional demands, your age, your athletic expectation and the activities that cause your instability. Irrespective of any of this, the first aim of treatment is to reduce the pain and swelling, restore the full range of motion and get your muscle strength and function back. This can lead to a stable knee, but even if it doesn’t, your knee is in prime position for the best outcomes after any reconstruction once the strength and range of motion have been restored.

Arthroscopy is a surgical procedure also known as “keyhole” surgery. It is used by surgeons to view a joint area, so any conditions, such as a torn cruciate ligament, can be diagnosed and repaired. Read more about arthroscopy.

What happens after surgery?

Full recovery will depend on the location of the injury (fractures involving a joint take longer to fully recover) but it will range from a few weeks to up to a year.

Your surgeon will advise on how to mobilise the injury after surgery usually with the aid of a physiotherapist.

To ensure the quickest recovery, you can:

  • Take pain medication.
  • Keep your incision areas clean
  • Elevate the affected limb
  • Follow mobilising instructions closely
  • Undergo regular physiotherapy

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Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament Specialists

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