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How to Treat a Torn ACL

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Tearing your ACL is one of the most common, and devastating, sports injuries. The good news is you can rebound from it!

Tearing Your ACL - The 411 on ACL's

The anterior cruciate ligament or ACL, is a ligament that connects the tibia to the femur. In other words, it's a ligament in your knee! Tearing an ACL is an injury common to athletes who participate in sports like basketball, soccer, football and skiing. Many times this injury occurs without any contact with another athlete. A sudden change in direction is usually the cause of an ACL tear. Most tears are completely random, happening at a time when you're doing a move you've done 100 times before.

When an athlete tears their ACL, their knee swells up almost immediately and they feel a sharp pain. Other times an athlete will hear a "pop". Female athletes are six times more likely to tear their ACL than their male counterparts. Statistics show that one out of every 10 NCAA women athletes will tear their ACL sometime in their college career.

Tearing Your ACL - What to do Next

The first step after tearing your ACL is getting your pain under control. This includes resting and icing the knee. Once the swelling and pain go down, you need to get your motion back. This means being able to bend your knee again. This can be accomplished with physical therapy or light gym workouts. If the tear is severe enough, you might need to have your ACL reconstructed in surgery. Regardless of how serious the tear is, you still have to get motion back in your knee before having surgery performed. Some people opt not to have surgery, but most athletes who plan on continuing to compete at their sport on a high level need to have their ACL reconstructed.

NBA players Baron Davis and Jamal Crawford have both had reconstructive surgery to replace their ACLs. They both have bounced back from the injury and have not lost any of their quickness or explosiveness. If anything, they are stronger because of the intense rehab process.

Tearing Your ACL - Preventing a Tear

Nearly 200,000 ACL injuries occur each year. It's hard to control an injury when you're competing so hard, but there are a few measures you can take to reduce the risk. For starters, make sure to take breaks from sports. If you are playing soccer 365 days a year, eventually your body is going to break down. Weight lifting also helps - any exercise that strengthens your knee or helps improve your flexibility can help reduce the risk of injury.

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