Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) constitutes a major part of the ligaments which form the human knee. To describe simply, it runs from deep inside the thigh bone (almost at the end of it) and connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. It function is to prevent the forward movement of the shin bone from underneath the thigh bone, as well as backward motion of the thigh bone over the shin bone. It works to resist the sideways or rotational forces to the knee. So, it is not hard to understand why is it such an important part of our knee. It is not difficult to gauge what might happen when there is an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
What is a Partial Tear?
A partial tear refers to an ACL which is not completely torn. There can be instability and looseness in the ligament, but the ligament is still considerably intact. This is also confirmed by seeing an ACL laxity. It is not as painful as a complete tear, but it is still uncomfortable. This happens when there is a sudden shift in the joint and following the tear, the joint develops a tendency towards giving out.
There are several symptoms of an ACL tear. To begin with, there is a distinct sound of a 'pop' or a crack when the injury happens. It is followed by instability and swelling. Swelling can either be immediate or may develop later post injury. Needless to say, there is joint pain immediately post injury. The degree of seriousness of injury determines the extent of pain. Tenderness in the affected area can be a possibility. The knee joints get vulnerable and give out. This giving out mostly happens with cutting or pivoting movements which are a part and parcel of some sports like soccer. Instability, however cannot be ruled out in people who might not even be in sports. Through these symptoms and a few tests like the Lachman test and the pivot shift maneuver one can confirm a partial tear. Arthroscopy is also used to confirm the symptoms.
The treatment as with any other injury is dependent on how serious the injury is. Now, for a partial tear, the dilemma is whether a surgery should be done or not. The problem is further made complicated by the fact that assessment of a partial tear is really difficult. For some doctors the tear may not look bad enough to warrant surgery, while some doctors may feel that a surgery is essential. The decision of a surgery also depends on the age and sex of the person having the injury. It all basically varies from patient to patient and his unique situation.
The decision about the course of treatment can be decided by a combination of a few factors like joint instability, the incidents of the joint giving out, the Lachmann test and the laxity test. The other courses of treatment are resting the knee, applying ice and heat, elevating the knee, putting a elastic bandage on the knee and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The recovery time for partial ACL tears is around 6 weeks. As it is not a complete tear, the condition is not as severe and recovery takes lesser time. The recovery focuses on strengthening the joints as well as getting the original range of motion back. This leads to getting the previous joint stability again. For that reason, knee braces can be really effective. Physiotherapy and physical rehabilitation help speed up the recovery.
It is a tricky situation and it depends on the doctor as well as the patient to decide the treatment options. This is where I sign off! Take care!
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.