The anterior cruciate ligament is a diagonal ligament running through the knee’s middle, preventing the tibia (shinbone) from sliding out before the femur (thighbone) whilst providing the knee with complete rotational stability. ACL injury occurs when there is a tear or a sprain in the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee. There may be a Grade 1 (mildly damaged ligament but stable joint) or Grade 2 (partial tear, which is rare) or Grade 3 sprain (complete or near complete tear).
ACL injuries mostly occur during sports activities that require sudden slowdowns and direction changes, pivoting on a firmly planted foot, incorrect jump landings, sudden stop while running, and knee collision. They are the most common knee injuries among athletes in very high demanding sports such as football, basket-ball, etc., and even in sports such as cricket, badminton, etc.
As per various studies, female athletes are more prone to ACL injuries. This is due to contrasts in physical conditioning, muscular strength, and neuromuscular control, between male and female athletes. Further reasons may include contrasts in pelvis and leg alignment, increasingly loosened in ligaments, and the consequences of oestrogen on the ligament region.
Symptoms include hearing or feeling a “popping” noise in the knee, severe pain and swelling, loss of motion, tenderness, instability and inability to continue any activity.
Diagnosis is mostly done through a physical exam, which is usually enough. The most common physical test is the Laxman Test. Other physical tests include pivot shift test, jerk test and anterior drawer test. If it’s unable to be diagnosed through physical tests, there may be a need to diagnose through X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds.
Effective Treatment Through Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy, with its therapeutic nature, provides effective treatment in case of ACL Injuries, be it mildly damaged, partial tear, or a near complete tear. In most cases where a few weeks of rehabilitation therapy through physiotherapy is adopted, it is possible to avoid intrusive treatment procedures. This is because physiotherapy is capable of reducing these ACL injuries, provided there is stability in the knee. At the same time, physiotherapy also reduces risks of ACL injuries developing into knee osteoarthritis. Treatment of ACL injuries through physiotherapy are more effective in elderly patients, those with less levels of activity, and those who play sports with less stress on knees.
Normally, the physiotherapist provides an assessment of the injury with instructions and feedbacks. The rehabilitation therapy consists of machine based treatment followed by an exercise protocol for biomechanical correction procedures to bring back motion and flexibility in the knee, and reduce the pain and inflammation. The exercise protocol is made by the physiotherapist based on the medical presentation of the condition. The exercises include – hamstring strengthening exercises to ensure general balance in the knee; exercise that strengthen the hips, pelvis and lower abdomen; training exercises to ensure proper jumping and landing; and training to improve sudden direction changes and pivoting. We at Eva Physiocare are developing rehabilitation therapy programme including diet therapy and an integrated wellness programme for ACL injury patients.