Jock Doc

A torn ACL won’t heal itself; physical therapy or surgery may be needed

Q: I was skiing over the holidays and fell. My bindings did not release and I felt a pop in my left knee. After being taken off the mountain on a sled, the doctor in the emergency room told me I likely tore my ACL and gave me a brace and crutches. My knee feels better now and I can walk on it but if I twist it, my knee feels like it could give way. I am waiting for an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon. I am 24 and active and concerned about the seriousness of this injury.

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Dr. Harlan Selesnick

A: There are many South Floridians who enjoy skiing. After football and soccer, ski injuries account for the most ACL injuries that come to my office each year.

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is important for pivoting activities. If injured, the ACL does not heal itself due to a poor micro circulation. Bindings do not always function well and may not release properly, which may contribute to an ACL tear.

From your history, it does sound like you have an ACL tear. Your orthopedic surgeon will likely order an MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and assess any other damage such as a meniscal cartilage tear or other ligament injuries.

The first line of treatment is usually physical therapy to regain normal motion, reduce swelling and strengthen the leg. Depending upon your desire to return to sports activity, your degree of instability symptoms, and associated knee damage will determine if ACL reconstructive knee surgery is necessary for you.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to