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Your anterior cruciate ligament is one of several major ligaments that stabilize your knee and help it function. It’s also the knee ligament that’s most commonly injured.

Dominique Nickson, MD, and the team at Next Step Orthopedics are skilled in treating ACL injuries in patients in and around McKinney, Texas. If you’ve injured your ACL, here’s how to tell if you might need surgery to repair it.

ACL injury basics

The ACL is one of two major knee ligaments that cross in the middle of your knee joint. Together, these ligaments keep the knee stable and support normal bending functions. The ACL helps prevent the lower leg bone from sliding too far forward.

The ACL is tough, but it can still be injured. Most ACL injuries happen when you pivot too hard or too quickly, especially when you change directions when running. Landing awkwardly or falling on your knee can also injure the ACL.

There are two primary types of ligament injuries: sprains and tears. A sprain happens when a ligament is stretched farther than it normally stretches but doesn’t tear. Tears can be further divided into partial tears or complete tears. The type of injury you have will help determine the treatment you need to restore knee function and relieve pain.

Treating ACL injuries

The good news is many ACL injuries respond well to conservative, nonsurgical treatment. That includes sprains and many partial tears, too. For these injuries, Dr. Nickson often recommends treatments like:

  • Medicine to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy
  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) therapy
  • Activity modification

Your treatment plan will be tailored to your injury, your level of activity, and other personal factors.

ACL surgery

Complete tears go through the ACL, separating the ligament into two parts. These tears will not heal independently, and they typically don’t respond to conservative treatments alone. In these instances, Dr. Nickson is more likely to recommend surgery to repair the ligament.

You might think surgery involves stitching the ligament’s ends together. But that’s not how ACL surgery works. To repair a complete tear, Dr. Nickson uses a graft — often a tendon from another part of your body — to entirely replace the torn ligament, restoring the stable connection the knee needs to function normally again.

After ACL surgery, you’ll undergo physical therapy to help strengthen and stabilize your knee, gradually returning to normal activities as your knee heals.

Learn more about ACL repair

ACL injuries require prompt treatment to prevent further damage to the knee joint. To find out more about ACL injuries and their repair, call us at (972) 547-0047 or book an appointment online with Dr. Nickson and the team at Next Step Orthopedics today.

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