The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is part of a ligament set that supports and stabilizes the knee joint. When the ACL is torn, it will not heal properly without surgical intervention. Some choose to move forward without the use of an ACL while others choose a procedure for ligament replacement. When an ACL is not repaired, the knee joint will become unstable. This is typically experienced as buckling or a general sensation of the knee giving out. While this may not be an issue for some individuals, others may find it lowers their quality of life. There are several factors to consider before getting ACL reconstruction surgery.
Benefits and Drawbacks of ACL Surgery
The decision to have an ACL repaired is a challenging one. While the procedure itself is relatively simple, the rehabilitation period afterward can last for several months, and the person may be restricted from normal activities for up to one year. The following explains the benefits of ACL surgery:
- The individual can return to playing sports that require the use of a functional ACL
- The knee cartilage will be protected from further damage
- The function of the knee can potentially return to normal
The drawbacks of ACL surgery include the following:
- The procedure does not provide a 100 percent recovery for all individuals
- There are many daily activities that do not require a normal ACL
- There are risks and complications associated with the surgery
Generally, ACL surgery is recommended to those who wish to return to high-level sports or do not want to live with the instability of the knee joint.
The ACL Reconstruction Procedure
An ACL reconstruction procedure is done to make a new ligament that replaces the damaged one. There are various techniques and grafts to choose from, all of which can be explained by the doctor. The surgery is an outpatient procedure, and the patient will be given crutches, which must be used for several weeks afterward. The rehab period often lasts from seven to nine months after the time the surgery is performed.
The main focus of non-surgical ACL treatment is improving neuromuscular control of the extremity. This means teaching and training the muscles to support the knee joint in the best possible way. Having neuromuscular control is vital for preventing injury to the ACL. Another approach is using external support devices, also known as ACL braces. These braces are customized for fit and the particular sport the individual will be participating in. In some cases, this type of brace is recommended after an ACL repair surgery has been done, although there is controversy surrounding the effectiveness of this method.
In most cases, ACL reconstruction is performed on young people who compete in sports that require lateral and pivotal movements of the knee, such as football, soccer, and basketball. While non-surgical treatment is an option for those who do not play sports, it is often better to have the surgery if there is any sign of knee instability during typical daily activities. To find out what options are available to you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hackett so he can go over your lifestyle and goals with you.