Anybody that plays sports or watches sports has heard of an ACL tear. It is one of the most common knee injuries in sports. PCL tears are also very common and sometimes, these tears go together.
If you have suffered an ACL or PCL tear and you need treatment, Dr. John Andrachuk is the right Orthopedic Sports Medicine Surgeon in Atlanta. Dr. Andrachuk has extensive experience treating these and many other sports injuries.
What are the ACL and PCL Ligaments?
The ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament is one of the four necessary ligaments for knee joint stability. This ligament is made of tough fibrous material and helps control excessive motion. It’s the most frequently injured ligament in the knee.
The PCL or Posterior Cruciate Ligament is another one of the major ligaments in the knee. It works with the ACL to provide stability to the knee joint. The PCL sits behind the ACL and about 20% of knee injuries impact the PCL. While it’s not talked about as much as the ACL, the PCL is a commonly injured ligament.
What are ACL/PCL Tears?
ACL and PCL tears are tears to these ligaments within the knee. ACL tears are rather common, especially among athletes. They can vary in severity. Most PCL tears will be partial tears, as it is a larger and stronger ligaments than the ACL.
Common Symptoms of ACL/PCL Tears
You will likely suffer similar symptoms due to an ACL tear or a PCL tear. Commonly, this type of injury will cause swelling, pain, and knee instability. Your symptoms may vary based on the severity of the injury.
The ACL is smaller and weaker than the PCL, which makes it more common to suffer a complete tear to the ACL than the PCL. When the actual injury happens, you might hear a popping sound as the ligament ruptures. An ACL injury can extend to other structures in the knee including other ligaments and cartilage.
The pain you might feel from an ACL tear is often more severe than the pain from a PCL tear. You may also suffer a complete loss of range of motion with an ACL tear, while a PCL tear might not cause a total loss of range of motion.
With a PCL injury, you will likely suffer a partial tear. It may lead to immediate swelling, while an ACL tear might lead to slower developing swelling. Most knee injuries are ACL tears, but some do involve the PCL.
Some of the common symptoms you will feel with an ACL or PCL tear include:
- A popping sound when the injury happens
- Knee pain, which can be severe with an ACL tear
- Swelling within hours of the injury or immediately
- Knee stiffness
- Buckling of the knee
If you suffer any of these symptoms, you likely have an ACL tear or a PCL tear.
Common Causes of ACL/PCL Tears
The most common causes of ACL and PCL tears come from sports. a sudden stop or a change in direction, during competition, can cause an ACL or PCL tear. This type of knee injury is very common in sports, such as:
- Downhill skiing
It can happen in other sports, too. Athletes might suffer an ACL tear from landing awkwardly after a jump or from side-to-side sudden motion. Playing on slippery ground or wearing the wrong type of footwear can also lead to a knee injury.
Women tend to be at a higher risk for ACL tears, too. Female athletes can be two to seven times more likely to suffer an ACL or PCL tear than men.
PCL tears tend to happen more often when the knee is bent during a fall. This type of knee injury can happen in a car accident when the knee is jammed into the dashboard. It can also happen due to a hard blow to the shinbone during soccer or football. Even a misstep on an uneven surface can cause a PCL tear.
ACL/PCL Tears Treatment
Treatment for an ACL or PCL tear will depend on the severity. There tend to be three grades to these types of injuries:
- Grade 1 – This is a slight stretching of the ligament, but the knee remains stable.
- Grade 2 – This type of injury causes the ligament to become loose or it will be partially torn.
- Grade 3 – This severity is a complete rupture of the ligament.
Most ACL and PCL tears will be treated with RICE therapy first. This includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If the injury is a grade 1, this might be the extent of the treatment.
However, most ACL and PCL tears will require physical therapy to gain strength and range of motion back. If you have suffered a grade 3 ACL or PCL tear, you will likely need arthroscopic surgery to reconstruct the ligament. Not all grade 3 tears will require surgery, however.
Most PCL tears can hear on their own without surgery. You may need crutches and you may need a way to immobilize your knee during recovery. However, if you suffer a PCL tear, you will likely not need surgery.
ACL/PCL Tears Recovery Time
If you require surgery for your ACL or PCL tear, the recovery time can be rather lengthy at 9 or 10 months. Some athletes may return to sports in six months, but this is less common.
If you have a lower-grade ACL or PCL tear, you may not need as long to recover. It could only take a few months to get back to 100%.
Schedule an Appointment Today!
Dr. Andrachuk provides extensive experience in treating all grades of ACL and PCL tears. If you have suffered a knee injury during athletic activity or you are experiencing knee pain, it’s time to seek medical help. Dr. Andrachuk offers conservative treatments, along with the best astroscopic and minimally invasive techniques available to get you back on the field as soon as possible. Contact us today and schedule your in-person or telemedicine appointment!