Tears in your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can be painful and, without the right treatment, can limit your long-term mobility.
As a sports medicine specialist, Carlos Uquillas, MD, has extensive experience in diagnosing and treating ACL tears. Dr. Uquillas recommends scheduling a diagnostic evaluation without delay for persistent knee pain following an injury. This ensures you receive the treatment you need to improve your chances of a full recovery.
An overview of an ACL tear
Your ACL is the major ligament in your knee that holds the bones of the joints together. This tough tissue also gives your knee stability.
Many types of injuries can result in an ACL tear, but it’s the movements of certain sports that put you at the most risk for this kind of knee injury. Sports like soccer and basketball that require you to rapidly change direction or stop suddenly can cause tears to form in the ligament.
Initially, these tears can be small. However, more serious injuries can cause a complete ACL tear, or small tears can progress to a complete tear without treatment.
Signs you might have an ACL tear
After tearing your ACL, it’s common to feel immediate knee pain. This pain can be severe enough to prevent you from rejoining the game or even bearing weight on your knee.
In addition to pain, an ACL tear might cause symptoms like:
- Joint instability
Dr. Uquillas can confirm if your symptoms relate to an ACL tear with X-rays and other diagnostic imaging tests. These tests give him a close-up view of your knee joint, so he can determine the severity of the tear.
Exploring your options for ACL repairs
Your treatment plan depends on the results of your diagnostic imaging tests and the physical exam Dr. Uquillas performs on your knee. He’ll test your knee’s range of motion and assess how much weight you can bear on your joint.
Treating an ACL tear might involve:
Regenerative medicine involves injections of stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) into your anterior cruciate ligament. These substances are found naturally in your body and stimulate the regeneration of new, healthy cells to repair your damaged ligaments.
Stem cells also have the ability to regenerate into any type of cell, including nerves, bone, and soft tissues to help ACL tears heal more efficiently.
Regenerative therapy recovery
Regenerative therapies are an outpatient procedure Dr. Uquillas performs in-office. You won’t need any downtime and can expect to go back to your usual activities, except for strenuous activity, immediately after your injections.
As you heal and your pain lessens, usually within six weeks of treatment, Dr. Uquillas can determine if it's safe for you to return to more strenuous activities like sports without increasing your risk for re-injury.
When regenerative medicine therapies aren’t enough to treat moderate to severe ACL tears, you might be a candidate for ACL reconstructive surgery.
During a minimally invasive surgery, Dr. Uquillas removes a piece of tendon from another area of your body and grafts it into the damaged area of your anterior cruciate ligament. For kids with ACL tears, a specialized growth plate-sparing surgery can be used to repair the ACL without affecting the child’s growth.
ACL reconstruction recovery
Recovery from reconstruction surgery involves several weeks of immediate downtime where you need to minimize weight-bearing activities. Dr. Uquillas might recommend gentle exercises you can do initially after surgery to help you heal and slowly rebuild your joint’s range of motion.
Full recovery from an ACL reconstruction surgery can take a year or longer before you can get back to your favorite sports. Dr. Uquillas works closely with you throughout your rehabilitation to determine when it’s safe for you to restart your physically active lifestyle. He can also offer tips to enhance your performance while protecting your ACL from further injury.
To find out which option is right for repairing your torn ACL, schedule a consultation online or by calling the office of Carlos A. Quillas, MD, today.