Getting Active Again after an ACL Injury

Have you suffered a knee injury that impacted your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)? An ACL tear may not require surgery, but proper rehabilitation of the knee joint is crucial to prevent more damage or loss of mobility. A torn ACL is also a factor in almost 20% of osteoarthritis cases, meaning you could need additional treatment down the road.

At Animas Foot and Ankle, with locations in Farmington, New Mexico; Monticello, Utah; and Durango, Colorado, our team of qualified podiatrists can help you deal with the aftermath of an ACL injury and any potential effects on your lower leg and foot.

Understanding ACL tears

There are four main ligaments that support the knee:

The ACL crosses the front surface of the knee diagonally. It keeps the tibia from sliding in front of the femur, and it provides support when the knee rotates. It is also the most vulnerable and most likely to be injured of the four ligaments. An ACL injury can destabilize your knee, causing a "pop" to be heard as well as felt, followed by pain.

ACL tears are one of the most common knee injuries and occur often in athletes whose chosen activity consists of a lot of sudden changes in direction at high speeds or with force. This includes downhill skiers, basketball players, soccer players, and football players, as well as tennis enthusiasts and martial arts experts.

An ACL injury may need restorative surgery, or it may be treatable without surgery; it depends on the depth of the tear. If the ligament is torn completely through, or if it totally detaches from the knee, surgery is often required. For a partial tear, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.) and a careful rehabilitative and physical therapy program may suffice, provided the knee is not reinjured and you take steps to preserve mobility.

Knee injuries and ankle or foot effects

While knee injuries are treated by an orthopedist, any injury to upper leg joints like hips or knees can affect your ankles and feet. An injury to the ankle can be overlooked at the time due to more painful knee trauma, only becoming noticeable later.

Also, walking unevenly or limping after an ACL tear can cause you to strain and stress your ankle and foot. If you notice any such issues in the aftermath of an ACL tear, you need to see a podiatrist to help manage the problem while you recover.

Activity after an ACL injury

Exercising after an ACL injury should only be done with approval from a doctor. Being very active with a torn ACL can mean walking or standing oddly, causing strain on the ankles and feet, and potentially causing more damage. Once you're cleared for activity, you may be prescribed a knee brace to support the knee while you begin rehabilitation. 

Rehabilitative therapy should include:

All exercises should be done slowly and in a controlled manner, and pain around the kneecap should be a signal to stop and check with your knee doctor.

If you have ankle or foot pain after or during recovery from an ACL injury, our facility can diagnose strains or sprains and provide the correct treatment. If you feel your ACL injury is impacting your ankles or feet, contact one of our locations or book a consultation with one of our podiatrists online.

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