Treatment options after ACL injury Questions and answers with a professional Q: What is an ACL injury? A: Tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most common knee ligament injuries. Injury to this ligament often occurs when the knee is forced beyond its normal range of motion, causing the ligament to stretch or tear. Q: What should someone do if they suspect they tore their ACL? A: If someone suspects an ACL injury, they should see a sports medicine specialist to have their injury evaluated for treatment and rehabilitation. Without treatment, swelling and pain will generally subside over several weeks, but instability may continue to hinder a person’s ability to play sports or even perform everyday activities like standing from a seated position, walking downstairs or pivoting on one leg. Q: Who may be a candidate for nonsurgical treatment options? A: Candidates for nonsurgical treatments include those who don’t have knee instability affecting their daily living and those who don’t participate in activities that involve sudden stops or turns. Nonsurgical treatment options may include physical therapy, wearing a knee brace, restricting knee movement and taking medications like ibuprofen or naproxen. Q: How long does recovery take? A: Recovery time varies between each person and may take a few weeks to a few months. Because not all ACL injuries fully heal with nonsurgical treatment, those who wish to return to sports or robust physical activities should talk with their provider about surgery options. Q: When does an ACL tear require surgery? A: The need for surgery to repair an ACL tear depends on the severity of the injury and a person’s lifestyle. If someone has a completely torn ACL, it will not be able to heal on its own. A sports medicine specialist can Anthony Kasch, MD help determine if surgery is the best option. Q: How is ACL surgery performed? In most cases, surgery involves ACL reconstruction, which replaces the torn ACL with tissue called a graft. This tendon tissue is taken from another part of the body. Today, with innovative advancements, patients can often return home the same day of their surgery to begin recovery. Q: What is the recovery process like after surgery? Within a few days of surgery, patients can meet with a physical therapist or specialist to start an exercise program tailored to their specific injury. Rehabilitation is essential for improving range of motion, increasing strength and restoring balance for the long term. Typically, athletes can return to playing sports nine to 12 months following surgery. Anthony Kasch, MD, specializes in sports medicine at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Bismarck. Dr. Kasch received his medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado, and completed his orthopedic residency at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. He also completed a fellowship specializing in sports medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, California. Call (701) 323-8920 to schedule an appointment.