ACL and MCL tears in the knee lead to a long recovery process. Your knee is a joint held together by ligaments. When these ligaments tear, it is debilitating. You commonly hear about these types of injuries among athletes. It is extremely common for football and basketball players. If you jostle your knee in the wrong way, you can easily tear one of these ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) both function to connect the thigh bone to the shin. Tears in either ligament are extremely painful and must be rectified through surgery.
The knee is a huge joint. It is the largest in the body. It takes four different ligaments to hold the knee in place. Three different bones form the knee: patella, femur, and tibia. Cartilage sits between the bones to cushion it. Tendons connect the muscles around the knee to the bones of the knee. The size of the knee joint makes it susceptible to injury. You need the knee to do almost everything from sitting to running. ACL tears are common. Nearly 95,000 people have an ACL tear yearly. MCL tears are not as common, but they have the same effect on your knee.
Difference between ACL & MCL Tears
The ACL and MCL are different but similar. The Anterior cruciate ligament differs from the medial collateral ligament. Cruciate and collateral are two categories of ligaments in the knee. They describe the location of the ligaments in the knee; cruciate describes ligaments inside the knee. They control the knee movement back and forth. Anterior describes the position of the ligament. The ACL lies in front of the knee. Its purpose is to keep the tibia from sliding on top of the patella. Collateral ligaments are outside the knee. Medial is also a positional word. Medial collateral ligaments lie inside the knee. The MCL controls the side to side motion of the knee. Based on these descriptions, you can get an understanding of how tears happen.
ACL and MCL tears can happen in the same way. It is also possible to tear your ACL and MCL at the same time. Tears happen due to injury. If you twist your knee oddly or find yourself landing awkwardly from a jump, you can easily injure your ACL and MCL. Any blow to the knee can tear a ligament. The blow to the knee will move the bones in a way that rips the ligaments. If your foot is planted and your knee is twisted, you can tear a ligament. Any awkward movement of the knee in an up and down movement will tear the ACL. Injuries that result in jostling the knee side to side typcially results in MCL tears.
Symptoms of ACL & MCL Tears
ACL and MCL tears are painful. You may not know that you tore a ligament initially. A lot of people hear a popping or snapping sound when it first happens. After the ligament tears, you will experience the pain along with a looseness in your joint. The knee may feel more flexible. One of the tell- tell signs you may have torn a ligament is that you cannot put weight on the leg. Anytime you have a tear; it must be treated immediately. You cannot continue being unable to walk.
Diagnosis of ACL & MCL Tears
Diagnosis of an ACL tear is made through examination. Most of the time X-rays and MRI’s are taken. These images help the doctor see how severe the tear is and if there is a tear at all. You can strain the MCL and ACL, which requires time to heal. For strains, rest is the best thing you can do. Keeping your knee elevated and adding ice help relieve the pain and swelling. It is best to wear a brace to help stabilize the knee. Medication will rid you of the pain and discomfort. If you do not take precautions, you can easily tear the ligaments. ACL tears, unfortunately, cannot be repaired. You have to have surgery to reconstruct the ligament. A surgeon will take ligaments from other parts of the knee to make a new ACL ligament in the knee. MCL ligaments can be repaired; therefore, surgery is not required. MCL tears can heal with rest. Taking proper care of the MCL will prevent surgery. If the MCL is not healing properly, you may need surgery. Physical therapy is a requirement after ACL and MCL injuries. Physical therapy strengthens the ligaments and helps you regain flexibility.
ACL and MCL tears of the knee are not fun. After a tear, you may not be the same. Some athletes have to retire. Recovery from these tears takes a while. After one tear, you are susceptible to more tears. You must properly care for yourself and try not to jump back into physical activity too fast. Give your knees time to heal. Be cautious about what you are doing. Try not to be careful with your knees. If you end up tweaking the knee, make sure you ice and elevate. If you take good care of your knees now, they will take care of you later.
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