Knee injuries may occur from car accidents, in which the knee is jammed into the dash of the car, in frontal collisions, or from sports injuries, usually involving a twisting motion of the knee, while cutting or changing direction suddenly. Football, basketball, rugby, and similar sports often require sudden changes of direction by the runner. This, with or without a hit from the side, often tears the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) of the knee joint.
The ACL offers stability from excessive rotation of the big bones of the leg, as well as excessive forward movement of the shin bone (tibia) with respect to the femur. The patient typically complains that the knee simply “gave way”, and she heard a loud pop, at the time of injury. Invariably, there is severe swelling, pain and tenderness of the knee, following the injury.
Diagnosing Torn ACL
Early definitive diagnosis is not always possible until the knee cools down, which sometimes takes several weeks, commonly a month or so. When the pain and swelling have diminished significantly, then the physician can push and pull on the knee to see if there is evidence of a ligament tear. Prior to that, there is simply too much pain to make assessment accurate. In the case of torn ACL, the tibia (shin bone) will move too far forward, when pulled relative to the femur. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging device) will show the tear of the ligament, but is usually not necessary for the diagnosis to be correct. A sloppy, unstable joint simply will not function on the playing field, nor will it function for many kinds of labor. The ligament need not always be repaired, especially if the patient is not an athlete or if her work does not require agility. Women are much more prone to ACL tears than are men.
Torn ACL Treatment
If a stable knee is important to the patient, especially regarding the young person involved in sports, then surgery must be performed. The ACL is not actually repaired, but replaced with a strip of the ligament that runs over the knee cap (patella). It is generally very strong and easy to reach, and makes an excellent replacement ligament. Occasionally another ligament of the back of the thigh is used, but much less often. Unfortunately, the healing time is very long, often seven months to a year, from the time of surgery. Some physicians will suggest the use of a machine that continuously moves the knee joint, while it is healing. Other physicians will recommend a knee brace. A large percentage of younger patients will recover all or nearly all of their normal knee function after a torn ACL, but the lengthy recovery time is trying. Some older patients will decide that the surgery is simply not worth it, and will limit their activities, rather than endure this protracted course.
Torn ACL Complications
Unfortunately, an unrepaired torn ACL will make the patient more likely to develop arthritis of the knee or to sustain a tear of one of the cartilaginous plates that line the knee joint (meniscus). This is again especially important for the young worker or athlete. Many types of manual labor require a normally functioning knee joint: carpenters, plumbers, roofers, masons, and so forth. The knee is an amazing joint, and one of the key players is the ACL. Tearing the ACL is often associated with difficult decisions and emotional trauma, loss of work and loss of self-esteem. The extensive healing time required is troublesome, at best.
Contact a Lawyer About Torn ACL Knee Injury
If you have suffered a torn ACL as a result of a motorcycle or a car accident, or negligence of others, Parker Scheer recommends that you consult with a personal injury lawyer and evaluate your case. For your free confidential case review click here and receive a response from one of our attorneys within hours. If you prefer, you can also telephone our offices in Boston seven days a week at toll-free.