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Does an ACL Tear Require Surgery?

Torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) are a common consequence of an active lifestyle. Every year, hundreds of thousands of ACL tears are reported across the country. The majority of ACL injuries are caused by rapid movements such as pivoting in soccer or football.

ACL injuries frequently require surgery, but not always. The solution begins with a thorough evaluation of your knee injury. You can rely on our team of experts at MidJersey Orthopaedics, with three locations in New Jersey, to provide an accurate diagnosis of your knee injury and create the most appropriate treatment plan to restore your knee function.

Specializing in sports medicine, we understand your desire to return to leading an active lifestyle and help you do so as quickly and safely as possible. 

ACL injury overview

Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a crucial part of your knee joint that ensures stability by linking your femur to your tibia. Exposed to extreme force or abrupt rotational movements, your ACL is at high risk of tearing, leading to discomfort and a decrease in mobility.

ACL injuries are frequently seen in sports requiring sudden directional shifts, leaps, or direct knee impacts. This makes athletes who participate in soccer, basketball, football, and skiing especially susceptible to ACL injuries.

Recognizing the symptoms of an ACL injury is vital. Common signs include a noticeable popping noise or feeling at the moment of injury, swift onset of swelling, intense pain, a sense of instability in the joint, and challenges in putting weight on your affected leg.

Evaluating your need for surgery 

When deciding on the need for surgery for an ACL tear, there are several factors to consider:

Severity of injury

The degree of your ACL injury significantly affects the decision about surgery. A partial tear means only part of your ligament is damaged, whereas a complete tear means your ligament has fully ruptured. Complete tears generally require surgical repair to adequately restore knee stability.

Lifestyle and physical demands

Your lifestyle and goals also influence the treatment choice. Those involved in demanding sports or activities that require strong knee movements might find surgical reconstruction beneficial to regain full functionality and reduce your chance of subsequent injuries.

Concurrent knee injuries

It's not uncommon for ACL injuries to accompany other knee damage, like meniscus or collateral ligament tears. These concurrent injuries can affect the chosen course of treatment and your potential need for surgery.

Impact on daily life

How your ACL injury affects your everyday activities and overall stability is another critical factor. Surgery might be the preferred approach for an injury that severely limits your movement and hinders your participation in desired activities. In this case, the primary goal is to reestablish knee stability to the greatest extent and enhance your quality of life.

Age and future plans

Age is also a factor in determining the most appropriate approach for ACL injury treatment. Younger individuals, especially those active in sports or demanding physical tasks, often opt for surgical reconstruction due to the long-term benefits of addressing the ACL tear. 

Older adults or those with less active lifestyles might explore nonsurgical alternatives, depending on the severity of the injury and other relevant factors.

ACL recovery without surgery

The majority of people with partial ACL tears are able to recover without surgery. It can take about 6-9 weeks to recover.

To protect your knee during recovery, bracing and crutches are typically recommended. Therapy for physical rehabilitation can start as soon as the swelling goes down.

Preserving the strength of the muscles around your joint and attempting to maximize joint stability are the main priorities for nonsurgical treatment. If you’re an athlete wishing to resume sporting activities, you may be fitted with a customized sports brace.

Discuss your ACL injury with an expert

The decision to have ACL surgery is one made after a thorough discussion with a specialist who can provide the information and guidance needed for you to make an informed decision.

Once you have all the facts and your questions and concerns are addressed, you can have the peace of mind that you’re making the best decision for your situation. For a comprehensive evaluation and all of your orthopedic needs, contact us today to schedule an appointment at our location most convenient to you.

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