man holding his knee in pain

Treating knee injuries: ACL tear

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament in the knee which provides stability and works against hyperextension of the knee.  Full or partial tearing of the ACL is a very common knee injury in both athletic and normal populations.  Knee pain typically occurs when an exterior force acts on the knee with the foot planted on the ground.  Studies have found that women are up to three times more likely to experience an ACL tear than men.


There are many treatments available for an ACL tear and the treatment prescribed depends on the injury severity.  The conservative approach to treatment works to avoid surgery.  Immediately after the injury, it is important to avoid all activities involving the injured leg and to ice and rest the leg until the swelling goes down.  After swelling has diminished, the patient can begin to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee (hamstrings and quadriceps).  The torn ligament reduces stability of the knee and these muscles must now make up for that loss.

If surgery is necessary, either an autograft (tissue from the person’s own body) or an allograft (tissue from a cadaver or donor) replaces the ACL.  Generally, either the hamstring tendon or patellar tendon replaces the torn ligament.  During surgery the surgeon removes the damaged ligament and affixes the replacement.


Post-operative physical therapy consists of strengthening and range of motion exercises.  These ensure that the body accepts the newly repaired tissue and the patient regains as much of the normal function, stability, and range of motion as possible.  Full recovery usually takes roughly 1 year.

If you have any questions on ACL injuries or treatments please feel free to contact us.