The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of two ligaments that controls the back and forth movement of the knee. It provides rotational stability and prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur during movement.
One of the most common knee injuries is an ACL tear or sprain. It is frequently seen in athletes competing in high demand sports such as soccer, football, and basketball.
ACL Tear injuries are graded based on severity:
- Grade 1 Sprain
- In a Grade 1 Sprain, the ligament is mildly damaged. Although it has been stretched, it still able to keep the knee joint stable.
- Grade 2 Sprain
- A Grade 2 Sprain stretches the ligament to the point where it becomes loose. This looseness is often referred to as a partial tear of the ligament.
- Grade 3 Sprain
- Also referred to as a complete tear of the ligament, a Grade 3 Sprain occurs when the ligament has been split into two pieces, making the knee joint unstable.
The majority of Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries are Grade 3 – a complete or near-complete ACL Tear. Movements that may result in an ACL Tear include stopping suddenly, changing direction quickly, slowing down while running, and direct contact collisions (such as a football tackle).
When an ACL Tear occurs, you may hear a popping noise and feel your knee give out from under you. Pain and swelling, tenderness along the joint line, discomfort while walking, and loss of your full range of motion are all typical symptoms of an ACL Tear injury.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament will not heal without surgery. For complete ACL Tear injuries, surgery is required to restore knee stability. Physical therapy and “pre-hab” prior to surgery can significantly improve the recovery time needed after the procedure.
Traditionally, an ACL Tear is treated by reconstructing the ligament through a tissue graft. This graft acts as a scaffolding to support new ligament growth. Regrowth can be a lengthy process, taking upwards of six months to one year.
Regenerative medicine such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy can enhance the effectiveness of ACL Tear surgery by decreasing inflammation, reducing swelling, and providing a concentration of growth factors to support tissue repair and growth. Adult stem cells injected into the injury site can generate new cells that repair the damaged tissue in the knee.
In cases where the ACL Tear is only a Grade 1 or Grade 2 sprain, PRP may be used in place of surgery entirely. When using PRP and stem cell therapy for ACL Tear treatment, recovery time is decreased and the effectiveness of the surgery, if deemed unavoidable, is considerably increased by the healing and regenerative activity of the injection.