Anterior Cruciate Ligament Surgery- All You Need To Know

What to expect when you are expecting ACL surgery

You’re sprinting up the pitch, defender to your left, goal in sight. Making a split second decision to get past your marker, your foot is planted on the ground and you twist suddenly to make your break. Suddenly you hear a “pop” followed by intense pain in your knee. You crumple to the ground, unable to put weight through the leg and the team physiotherapist runs on to you. She moves your knee around, the pain is worsening and says she suspects it could be an ACL tear. So now what? What is your ACL? Why did you get this injury? And most importantly, will you ever get back on the pitch again?

 What is the ACL?

The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is one of the main stabilisers of the knee joint. It prevents forward movement of the tibia (the bone below the knee) relative to the femur (the main thigh bone). It also controls rotational movement of the tibia under the femur (Brukner& Khan, 2016). This is important as it provides stability to the knee while you land from a jump, stop suddenly, or turn suddenly.


How does it get injured?

Typically ACL injuries occur when the foot is planted on the ground and the person rotates while the foot stays in the same position.

 Who tends to get this injury?

ACL injuries are more common in sports that involve quick changes in direction such as field sports and basketball. If you have torn your ACL, you are in good company! Ruud van Nistelrooy, Francesco Totti, Tom Brady and Ciaran Kilkenny are just some of the many athletes who have suffered an ACL injury. Also, you will notice that all of them returned to play and win in their respective sports. Not every athlete will return to play at the level they were at prior to their ACL injury. However an ACL injury does not mean that you will never be able to play sport or be involved in activities that you enjoy.


What should I do?

After confirming the ACL has been damaged on MRI, the next step should be to liase with an orthopaedic surgeon and a chartered physiotherapist. Your surgeon will discuss what the MRI has shown and whether or not surgery is needed. If the decision is made to operate, I recommend your next port of call is to a chartered physiotherapist. Bring your MRI report with you if you can so that your physiotherapist has all the information about your injury. Prior to surgery, there is a lot of work you can do to build your muscles and regain strength. Your physiotherapist will guide you through this process which is known as “prehabilitation”. A good prehabilitation tends to be linked with better outcomes post ACL repair. It is important to discuss your personal goals with your physiotherapist at this time. This allows your physiotherapist to tailor your program to your own specific needs.

What comes next?

What to expect in the first three months post ACL repair surgery will be discussed in an upcoming blog. Please note that this blog is not intended to diagnose an ACL tear, such a diagnosis needs to be made medically. If you have any questions about this piece, please contact us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have in relation to treatment before and after ACL repair. Alternatively, you can book online to come and see one of our chartered physiotherapists.


Lise-Ann O’Neill, MISCP

Senior Chartered Physiotherapist.

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