You felt a sharp pop in your knee, and now it’s stiff, swollen, and sore. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common among athletes and older adults, and when it happens, it’s important to know what to do.

Suffering an ACL injury doesn’t guarantee you’ll need surgery, but getting the right care is critical. David B. Glover, DPM, FACFAS, is a sports medicine specialist at Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute, and he helps patients heal from all types of ACL injuries.

In this blog, Dr. Glover explains more about ACL tears and when it may be time to consider ACL surgery.

Types of ACL injuries

Your ACL provides critical stability for your knee joint. It’s naturally tough, but abrupt movement or impact can damage it. Sudden stops, hard landings, and sharp changes in direction are a few of the most common causes of ACL injuries.

If you hurt your ACL, you might hear or feel a popping sensation in your knee. Then, you might see your joint quickly swell and force you to stop what you’re doing. Going to the doctor is essential, because we can evaluate your injury and recommend the best course of treatment.

ACL injuries are categorized into three main types based on severity:

Grade 1 sprain

A Grade 1 sprain is the least severe ACL injury. Your ACL stretched outside its typical range, but it didn’t tear. It still supports your knee joint. Symptoms can include swelling and soreness.

Grade 2 sprain

A Grade 2 sprain is more serious than a Grade 1 sprain. Your ACL stretched much farther than its usual range, and now it’s noticeably loose. Your knee joint may feel weak or unstable, and you have other symptoms, such as swelling, pain, and a loss of mobility.

Grade 2 sprains are sometimes called partial ACL tears, but partial tears are rare. If your ACL is torn, it’s almost always a near complete or complete tear (a Grade 3 sprain).

Grade 3 sprain

A Grade 3 sprain is the most severe ACL injury. It’s a near complete or complete tear that separates your ACL into two pieces. You have no knee stability, you’re unable to bear weight on your leg, and you have significant pain and swelling.

Treatment options for ACL injuries

Once it’s injured, your ACL won’t heal on its own. Dr. Glover offers custom ACL treatment plans based on the severity of your injury, your lifestyle, and your overall health.

Conservative treatments for ACL injuries

Not all ACL injuries need surgery. If Dr. Glover diagnoses a mild ACL sprain, he may recommend a combination of conservative treatments, such as:

  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Knee bracing
  • Custom orthotics

These nonsurgical treatments can effectively relieve pain and other symptoms, particularly for people who aren’t athletes.

Surgery for ACL tears

If you’re an athlete or you have a more severe ACL injury, you’ll probably need ACL surgery to restore full joint mobility. Surgery involves reconstructing your ACL with a tissue graft to reconnect the separated pieces.

Dr. Glover specializes in arthroscopic surgery, a minimally invasive method that reduces your risk of surgical complications and helps accelerate healing. Full recovery takes about nine months, and physical therapy is essential.

Your physical therapy plan will include stretches and exercises designed to build strength, restore mobility, and improve flexibility. Your physical therapist will guide you in reintroducing your favorite activities as you heal. And beyond helping you heal, participating in rehabilitation will help lower your risk of future injury.

To get expert care for ACL injuries, call 801-614-2996 or book an appointment online with Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute today.