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Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury
Anterior cruciate ligament sprains are common in contact sports and those involving a sudden change of direction. Often an ACL injury will occur in combination with injury to other structures in the knee joint and require immediate first aid.
Symptoms may include sudden pain in the knee joint at the time of injury with an audible pop or crack. The athlete may have a feeling of instability and rapid swelling may occur from bleeding within the joint which will feel warm to touch.
Read more on symptoms....
There are four main ligaments supporting the knee joint. The lateral ligaments on the inside and outside of the knee which prevent sideways movement and the cruciate ligaments which cross over in the middle of the knee and prevent forwards and backwards movement.
Read more on anatomy....
A torn ACL usually occurs through a twisting force being applied to the knee whilst the foot is firmly planted on the ground or upon landing. A direct blow to the knee, usually the outside, as may occur during a football or rugby tackle. If this happens then there is usually also a tear of the medial ligament on the inside of the knee, a medial meniscus tear or articular cartilage injury.
Immediate first aid at the time of the injury consists of RICE principles; rest, ice. compression and elevation. Taping the knee can provide support and protection as can wearing a hinged knee brace or support. Often surgery is required which is followed by a longer rehabilitation program consisting of mobility and strengthening exercises.
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Mobility and strengthening exercises are important after the acute stage has passed and normal activities are pain free. If surgery is indicated then pre-surgery exercises are done to build up the strength in the muscles around the joint which could give a much better outcome after surgery.
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The decision whether or when to operate to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament is a controversial one. Surgery may be performed shortly after injury, a few weeks or even months after injury or not at all and may depend on the athletes age, lifestyle and degree of instability.
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Professional Football Physiotherapist Neal Reynolds talks about prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of anterior cruciate ligament injuries and how the are managed in a professional sports team as well as how to choose a suitable knee brace.
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We recommend a number of products which can help with treatment of anterior cruciate ligament injuries. A cold therapy compression wrap is excellent for applying immediately after injury and can be used throughout the rehabilitation process to help reduce pain and swelling.
A good hinged knee brace can give support and protection, particularly if other structures such as the lateral ligaments are damaged as well, although no brace can guarentee to prevent an ACL injury.