Q. What is an ACL sprain and what is the treatment? How long until one can go back to playing sports?
A. The anterior cruciate ligament “ACL” is an important stabilizer of the knee for pivoting activities. The MCL and LCL are side-to-side stabilizers of the knee, and when injured, can heal themselves as they have a good blood supply.
The ACL, however, has a poor microcirculation and when injured, usually cannot heal. A ligament connects two bones together and a sprain by definition is a tearing of a ligament. Ligament tears (sprains) are divided into three grades. A grade 1 is a micro tear of the ligament. A grade 2 is a partial tear and a grade 3 is a complete disruption of the ligament.
Also, only 15 percent of the time when the ACL is injured is it not associated with other damage to the knee. Depending upon the grade of the ACL sprain and the associated damage to the knee will determine the treatment options and length of time out of sport. If an athlete has only an isolated mild ACL sprain, he or she may be out for only a few weeks. A grade 3 ACL tear that requires surgery could result in 6-12 months out of competition.
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Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net.