In my previous article on an ACL injury, we discussed the physical reason women tend to suffer this injury approximately eight times more than men. The reality is women are structured very differently from men, and therefore, when we come across an injury like this, it seems like the treatment and recovery is far worse as well. I guess it is safe to say we women injure more frequently and recover slower. Seems unfair I’d say!
With that said, let’s talk about the symptoms you will experience if you indeed tear your ACL. Upon the actual injury, most experience a popping sensation with pain in the back of the knee to follow. Like most injuries, swelling will occur, but depending on the severity, it could come at different points. If your knee swells right away, it is a strong possibility you are looking at a serious knee injury and there is bleeding inside the knee joint. You will also experience limited range of motion, unstable feeling or buckling of the knee joint when attempting to put weight on it.
When dealing with a torn or ruptured ligament, it is particularly important to see a doctor right away. Delaying treatment because you think it will heal on its own can ultimately lead to a bigger problem: chronic ACL deficiency. Essentially, if your injury is left untreated and you continue to try to use your knee as normal, the ligament can slowly tear more, or even fully rupture. Chronic ACL deficiency can lead to long term effects, like your knee consistently giving out on you. It can also lead to a stubborn recovery because other parts of the knee will most likely be affected and the knee can move abnormally, putting yourself at a higher risk for further complications down the line, like osteoarthritis.
Women with this injury should see a doctor immediately following the initial injury. Most likely if the ligament hasn’t been torn completely off the bone, you will be advised to use a brace for a short period of time to stabilize the injury until the swelling subsides, then it's off to physical therapy. Spending the necessary time to rehabilitate the injury ensure that the muscles in your legs surrounding the ligament are strengthened and stretched, allowing healthy muscle tissue to develop, which should make your knee stronger and healthier.
Most ACL injuries require a few weeks of rehab and you are back to your routine. However, that is not the case for everyone. If your tear is more serious, and other parts of the knee are affected as well, you could be looking at months of rehab and possibly up to a year before you can get back to your normal level of activity.
If you are an unlucky soul that actually suffers a full ACL rupture, then you can say hello to what I call a recovery nightmare. Prior to surgery, most doctors recommend rehab. As silly as that sounds, it is actually very helpful in gaining some strength in your knee and muscles for the surgery. Then it’s off the the operating room, which is actually the easiest part in my opinion. After surgery, makes friends with your physical therapist because you are looking at a long road ahead of you. Some people make an excellent recovery, some not. The point is not to scare you, but paint an accurate picture of what a ruptured ACL entails.. which is essentially many months or years of rehab. Just be patient with your recovery, stay positive, and listen to your body.