Anterior Cruciate Ligament
With an ever increasing number of people becoming involved with athletic activities, there is an increasing number of injuries occurring which can be devastating for the individual. Most of the injuries that affect athletes occur in one of four structures in the human body: bones, muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Because ligaments attach bone to bone and play a major part in providing stability for joints, the major stabilizing ligament in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), assists in performing everyday actions of the human body including sitting, standing, walking, running, dancing, and participating in other sports. The injury that specifically affects this ligament is very serious and always provides a challenge for the health care provider, in most cases the orthopedic doctor, who is responsible for the correction of the problem. By understanding how to diagnose one of the most common sports injuries, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, realizing the causes, and providing the proper treatment, an orthopedic doctor can help a patient minimize his or her risk of experiencing long-term problems that may be associated with this injury.
In order for an orthopedic doctor to diagnose an ACL injury, he or she must first be knowledgeable about the ligament's location and function. The anterior cruciate ligament is located directly in the center of the knee along with another critical ligament known as the posterior cruciate ligament.
The two ligaments cross each other to form an “X” behind the kneecap to provide the most support for the knee joint, where most of a person's body weight is concentrated. Although the ACL, which connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia), is only two inches in length and three-quarter inches in width, it is a critical factor in helping to maintain stability (Scott 73). This short and round ligament, like all other ligaments, prevents slippage within the joint and allows the joint to properly pivot when performing an action (Duff 300). Without this particular ligament, the knees would be fragile and more susceptible to injury. Therefore, it would be impossible to do the simplest movements that are done by humans everyday, like walking and even sitting. This is one reason why many athletes should be aware of the physical indications that arise if they have torn their ACL while participating in athletic activities.
In many cases, the symptoms that the patient feels after the trauma has occurred can help the doctor make his or her diagnosis. Many times a doctor will ask the patient to recall what happened after the injury was sustained. Usually with an ACL injury, the patient will describe a so-called pop or snap that he or she heard during the impact. Pain, which is not terribly excruciating, will immediately follow, and if the individual tries to stand, he or she will be faced with an overwhelming feeling of instability, the leg will buckle under,...