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Is Surgery the Only Option for an ACL Tear?

One of the most feared injuries is a torn ACL, probably because of its common appearance in players of many different sports and its severity in professional athletes. However, an ACL tear doesn't necessarily mean you need surgery. A specialist will determine if a more conservative treatment can allow your body to heal without surgical intervention.

At The Institute for Arthroscopy and Sports Medicine (IASM) in San Francisco, California, Dr. Jeffrey Halbrecht can evaluate your ACL injury and determine the proper course of treatment. 

The anatomy of your knee

Your leg is made of two main bones, the femur and the tibia. These meet in a hinge joint at the knee, which is covered by a smaller bone called the patella (your kneecap.) Four ligaments help form the joint that holds the two leg bones together: 

The ACL is located in the middle of the knee, running diagonally to provide rotational stability and keep your tibia from slipping to the front of the femur. When you encounter excess force to your knee, especially in a twisting motion, you can tear the ligament. In many cases, tearing of the ACL is accompanied by damage to the meniscus or articular cartilage.

Physical therapy

For minor, partial thickness ACL tears, physical therapy may be the path to recovery. A hinged knee brace can provide additional support and stability during rehab. Dr. Halbrecht examines your knee and decides whether or not more aggressive treatment is needed.

ACL shrinkage

If at least half the ligaments in your knee are intact and there is minimal stretching of the connected ligaments, ACL shrinkage with a heat probe may be able to tighten the knee back to stability and keep you from needing knee surgery. However, this method of treatment may not last more than a few years, and Dr. Halbrecht recommends a more permanent repair if possible.

ACL surgery

If you're an athlete or sports enthusiast with serious ACL damage, and you're wanting to get back to professional play, ACL surgery may be the only real option for returning to peak performance. Dr. Halbrecht can perform reconstructive ACL surgery to give your knee the strength, flexibility, and stability you need to return to active play.

Rehabilitation after an ACL injury

We’re currently conducting a study of passive motion rehabilitative therapy for patients who have undergone ACL reconstruction. Dr. Halbrecht believes it can be particularly helpful to restore mobility and range of motion for patients who have a limited number of physical therapy visits.

Have more questions about ACL injuries? You can find many answers on our website. If you’re worried about your own ACL tear or want to participate in the study, contact the experts at IASM by calling 415-233-7996, or book an appointment online.

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