Life After ACL Reconstruction

Life After ACL Reconstruction

Your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a strip of tissue that runs through the center of your knee. Its job is to keep your knee stable, and to keep your thigh bone and shin bone in place. Athletes and people who work in physically demanding jobs are at increased risk of injuring their ACL. The good news is that, despite how common ACL tears are, there are plenty of options for treatment. 

Marc Pietropaoli, MD heads the professional team at Victory Sports and Orthopedics in Skaneateles, New York. With over two decades of experience treating the spectrum of ACL injuries, Dr. Pietropaoli understands the difficulties that even a “minor” ACL injury can bring. If you play a sport, professionally or otherwise, or work a job that requires physical labor, you are at increased risk of an ACL injury. 

How did this happen? 

ACL injuries generally fall under three categories:

Though this injury can be sustained by anyone, women are 5-10 times  more likely than men to experience a torn ACL. There are a number of reasons for this, including hormonal differences between the two binary sexes. Anatomical differences, including the way that women land when landing on their feet from running or jumping, also increase the risk of women tearing their ACLs, relative to men. 

When you’ve torn your ACL, you usually know it. The moment of injury many times sounds like a loud pop. Your knee may buckle and “give out,” and is followed by pain and swelling that starts within six hours of experiencing the injury. 

Football, soccer, volleyball, and other sports that require players to jump, pivot, or cut (meaning, suddenly change direction while putting all of your weight on one leg) can put you at increased risk of an ACL injury. Surrounding tissues, too, can be damaged in an ACL injury.   

How do I fix this? 

Grade 1 ACL injuries rarely require more than rest, some rehabilitation, and over-the-counter medication for pain. With over 100,000 people in the US suffering these injuries, yearly, though, Dr. Pietropaoli has had plenty of experience in treating patients whose injuries are more severe. Using his deep knowledge from years of compassionate care, he offers ACL Reconstruction to eligible patients. More recently, with newer, cutting edge techniques, he can repair the ACL.  Although, ACL repair is still much less common because when the ACL usually, but not always, tears, it is usually in the mid-substance.  There is a newer technique, called the BEAR (™) procedure, that Dr. Pietropaoli has been selected to be trained on for repairing these types of tears. The most common type of tear that is repairable is when the whole ligament tears right off the bone (usually the femur/thigh bone).  Dr. Pietropaoli is well versed and performs this type of ACL repair.  Nonetheless, having to make a new ligament, i.e. reconstruction, is much more common.  A strip of either patellar tendon or quadriceps tendon from your own knee area is harvested and used to make a new ACL.

What happens after ACL Reconstruction?

Aftercare for your ACL reconstruction procedure is personalized by Dr. Pietropaoli, and begins when the procedure is finished. ACL reconstruction is an outpatient procedure that involves general anesthesia, so you will be unconscious, but you won’t have to stay at the hospital. Dr. Pietropaoli prescribes appropriate medication based on your pain and medical needs, and you may need a knee brace or crutches for a little while. 

The months following your ACL recovery should focus on physical therapy. Depending on your unique needs, he prescribes the best physical therapy at Victory Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, which includes strength training, to help you heal, and eventually get back to work, or back on the team. Physical therapy could last as little as six months, up to 9 months or a year. Each person is different, so healing times vary. 

I injured my ACL. Do I have to have surgery? 

As stated, ACL injuries are very common, and not all of these types of injuries require surgery. Surgery is the last resort, and only reserved for severely injured individuals. If you think that you may need ACL reconstruction, contact us at 315-303-8352, or book an appointment with us online.

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