What is an ACL Injury?
An ACL injury is a term used to identify a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). When an ACL injury occurs, one of the strong bands of tissue that help connect your thigh bone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia) is damaged (see Figure 1), it is common to feel a "popping" sensation in the knee and it may swell and feel unstable.
These injuries commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing – such as soccer, basketball, rugby, football and skiing.
Figure 1 – Identifies what a damaged ACL looks like compared to healthy, functioning ACL Provided by: https://corephysio.com.au/what-is-an-acl-injury/
What do you do when you have an ACL injury?
The best knee support for any ACL injury is determined based on the severity of the tear and/or sprain. ACL injuries fall anywhere within this 3 grade system;
- Grade I - Trauma to the ligament is relatively minor. Some of the fibers may be stretched. This is considered a "sprain".
- Grade II - Trauma to the ligament is more severe. Some of the fibers are torn. This is called a "partial tear".
- Grade III - This is the most severe ACL injury. The fibers of the ligament are completely torn. It is referred to as a "complete tear".
Treatment and support for these grades will also depend on the physiological make-up of a person and may vary case to case. Treatment could include rest and rehabilitation, exercises to help you regain strength and stability, a particularl protocol of serious bracing or surgery to replace the torn ligament. A proper training program should be made with your physician to accommodate your circumstances and help reduce the risk of complications in the ACL recovery process. Wearing a relevant brace might be suggested by your doctor or physiotherapist.
Grade I and II Injury: Some people with a damaged ACL can get by with only wearing a brace on their knee when they run or play sports. The GenuTrain S Hinged Knee Brace is the most popular and effective Bauerfeind product for moderate to mild ACL (and also posterior) injuries. It hosts a breathable compression weave to promote blood-flow and speed up healing. Thermoplastic hinges and adjustable straps allow controlled stability.
GenuTrain S Hinged Knee Brace
Grade III Injury: For severe ACL injuries (and recovery from surgery), our most favoured and functional brace is the SecuTec Genu Knee Brace as it provides complete external stabilisation of the knee joint and restricts the range of movement of the knee after surgery or injury. The SecuTec’s ultra-light metal compound and anatomically shaped padding is ideal for rupture ACL, after ligament surgery and complex, traumatic or degenerative instability.
Read More: The Best Knee Braces For ACL Instability
If you still need assistance on selecting the right product for your needs, book a video consultation with a Bauerfeind expert: Book Video Call, or call us on 1300 668 466.
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The ACL injury healing process:
How long do I have to wear a brace for?
According to Newcastle based orthopedic surgeon, Dr Stewart Mackenzie, following an ACL surgery/reconstruction, your grafted ligament is at its greatest risk of rupture. This means that if significant force is placed on your knee during the healing process, the graft may not be able to endure the pressure. Wearing a brace during this period of time will help protect the knee from accidental movements that could contribute to recurrence.
A multidisciplinary approach towards ACL injuries is becoming more prevalent given the increased success of non-invasive approaches. Grade 1 and 2 ACL injuries are typically cared for with rest, a good quality soft sleeve brace and restrengthening activity programs. These ensure the surrounding muscles are supporting the joint to provide protection to your ligament whilst it is healing and starting to load the joint again with activities. With a minor injury, you may only need to put ice on your knee, elevate your leg, and stay off your feet for a while. Crutches can help to keep weight off your knee and the use of a brace to aid stability and regeneration of the ligament is also a popular option (length of time will vary case to case).
A fully ruptured ACL tendon typically requires surgery however some choose to avoid surgery and live with a ruptured ACL through strengthening activities and assessing their level of stability on an ongoing basis.
How long does an ACL injury take to heal?
About 12 to 16 weeks after surgery, sport-specific activities are usually added to the rehabilitation program, such as hopping, jumping and agility drills. Six to nine months is typically how long it takes to recover from an ACL surgery and full activity , with minor impacts usually able to heal on their own over time. In saying this, there is still a high risk of re-injuring the area in that 12-16 week period and beyond, so the following regiment should be considered.
For non-operative ACL injury, the length of time varies case to case. It is recommended to get advice from a physician.
Tips to get you back on track:
Whilst Bauerfeind’s range of ACL knee supports will aid in your recovery process (allowing for enhanced stability, proprioception and medical-grade compression), there are other simple exercises and lifestyle choices that will help you on your journey and prevent further injury.
Proper training and exercise can help reduce the risk of ACL injury recurrence. A sports medicine physician, physical therapist, athletic trainer or other sports medicine specialists can provide assessment, instruction and feedback that can help you reduce risks. They may advise some or all of the following;
- The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and analgesics to help with pain management.
- Exercises to strengthen the core andrain the body to avoid moving the knee inward during a squat, lunge or jump
- Exercises that strengthen leg muscles, particularly hamstring exercises, to ensure an overall balance in leg muscle strength
- Training to improve technique when performing pivoting and cutting movement