If you’re an athlete, you’ve probably heard of a number of incidents, where individuals succumbed to an ACL injury — perhaps you have yourself, and you’re hoping to heal as rapidly as possible. Being one of the most common knee injuries, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear or sprain generally occurs among athletes in high demand sports.
The Anatomy of Your ACL and Possible Injuries
Although highly complex, there are three main bones which meet to form your knee joint — your kneecap, shinbone, and thighbone. Featuring joints, tendons, and ligaments, every feature works together in order to maintain stability. When ligaments are injured, for instance, these are considered sprains.
In terms of severity, there are varying grades — ranging from mildly damaged to complete tears. Although each case is unique, an ACL injury can occur based on several potential scenarios:
- When rapidly changing direction
- Stopping suddenly
- Slowing down while running
- Landing incorrectly from a jump
- A direct trauma-related collision
If one of these scenarios happens to you, physiotherapy can help you heal and prevent a future occurrence. In order to reduce your risk, it’s important to highlight some of the main risk factors — including specific activities that lead to a higher incidence of ACL injuries.
These Activities Increase Your Risk of ACL Injury
Since the ACL prevents the femur from moving forwards during weight bearing exercises, as well as the prevention of joint rotation, injuries can occur across a wide range of situations and activities. With that being said, these injuries are more common in sports such as basketball, netball, football, and alpine skiing.
Any sport where athletes often pivot, are tackled, jump, or decelerate suddenly, can increase one’s risk. ACL injuries are most prevalent in paeople who are between the ages of 15-45 years old — mainly due to the active lifestyle of this age group, more specifically a higher participation in sports.
Not only do the above activities increase your risk, but also your gender. Several studies have shown that female athletes have a higher incidence of ACL injury in comparison to their male counterparts. This is generally due to differences in physical conditioning, as well as muscular strength and neuromuscular control. The effects of oestrogen on ligaments may also play a key role.
More often than not, an injury occurs during a non-contact event, such as twisting, decelerating, or jumping. If you hear that dreaded pop or believe that you’ve sustained a significant blow to your knee, physiotherapy can help you address your concerns, creating an effective plan of action.
Why See a Physiotherapist?
Regardless of your injury, physiotherapy can help you address a wide range of conditions and injuries, supporting a more rapid recovery. If you have completely torn your ligament, you may need surgery, however, physiotherapy has been shown to be equally as effective at 2 years and 5 years post injury.
One of the main reasons why you would see a physiotherapist, is to prevent recurrent injuries. Research has shown that untreated injuries, often damage the articular cartilage and menisci, leading to osteoarthritis. If you want to avoid long-term changes in the knee, it’s important that you’re examined immediately.
The earlier you seek rehabilitation, the better. More often than not, the main goals will be to control swelling, while restoring range of motion and strength both pre- and post-surgery. If you’re not overly active or are minimally symptomatic, you could potentially opt for nonoperative treatment.
In these cases, after pain and excess fluid is addressed, treatment will focus on key exercises, helping to restore normal function, decreasing one’s risk for re-injury. As quadriceps and hamstrings are strengthened, patients will undergo a number of stages, maximising endurance and overall healing.
If you can relate to the information above, please seek physiotherapy today for a professional opinion. Whenever possible, you will benefit from non-invasive treatment options that enhance the healing process and reduce your risk of future complications.