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Home Base Physical Therapy What Is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of a pair of cruciate ligaments (the other being the posterior cruciate ligament) in the human knee. They are also called cruciform ligaments as they are arranged in a crossed formation.

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four main ligaments of the knee, and the ACL provides 85% of the restraining force to anterior tibial displacement at 30 degrees and 90 degrees of knee flexion.


Different Types of Surgery Autograft vs Allograft


An autograft surgery uses bone or tissue harvested from the patient’s own body. Usually either the hamstring tendon or patellar tendon/ligament are used. Because the tissue used in an autograft is the patient’s own, the risk of rejection is minimal.


An allograft surgery uses bone or tissue from another body, either a cadaver or a live donor. The patellar ligament, tibialis anterior tendon, or Achilles tendon may be recovered from a cadaver and used in ACL reconstruction. The Achilles tendon, because of its large size, must be shaved to fit within the joint cavity.

Is Surgery Avoidable?

Surgery is avoidable. The patient’s level of activity and severity of tear will determine if surgery is a viable option.  A person with a relatively low level of activity can function normally without an ACL.  On the other hand someone at a high level of function can rehab a partially torn ACL without surgery. 

All of this being said, non-traumatic ACL’s can be prevented with proper instruction on applicable exercises and sport specific training techniques. 

In all cases consulting a Physical Therapist after an ACL tear or to prevent an ACL tear is always recommended. 

Non-Traumatic ACL Tear How Can I Avoid This?

A non traumatic or non contact ACL tear or injury is 75% more likely to occur than a contact injury.  

A cut-and-plant movement is the typical mechanism that causes the ACL to tear, that being a sudden change in direction or speed with the foot firmly planted. Rapid deceleration moments, including those that also involve planting the affected leg to cut and change direction, have also been linked to ACL injuries, as well as landing from a jump, pivoting, twisting, and direct impact to the front of the tibia.

Women are three times more prone to have ACL tears than men. 

Non-contact ACL tears can be minimized.  This is done through specific exercises, sport specific training.  A physical therapist is the most qualified professional to take an athlete thru the proper course of treatment and exercise in order to reduce or prevent these injuries. 

Physical Therapy After Surgery

Physical Therapy after an ACL repair will be necessary in order for the patient to return to full function.  Initially PT will consist of regaining full range of motion and beginning to re educate the musculature.  Then it will progress toward functional activities and then into sport specific training if applicable.  Physical therapy will also focus highly on the ways to prevent future ACL tear or injury.

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