ACL Injuries | Ligament Injuries | MedStar Health

Our team of experienced orthopedic surgeons offers you a range of options to manage your knee injury. First, we explain the details of your condition and answer any questions you and your family may have. Once you understand your condition, we work with you to develop a treatment plan. Whenever appropriate, we will recommend non-surgical treatment options to alleviate your pain and improve your function before resorting to surgery. We help you weigh the risks and benefits of all options, both nonsurgical and surgical, so you can choose a treatment plan that will be most appropriate and effective for you.

What is a ligament injury?

Ligaments are the tough, flexible tissues that connect two bones or cartilages or hold together a joint. The knee has four main ligaments: the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments. When the knee is suddenly twisted or directly impacted, these ligaments can be injured.

  • Cruciate ligament injuries may respond to conservative treatment, although many require surgery. Our sports medicine surgeons at MedStar Health have significant experience and expertise in a number of surgical options and will discuss the best treatment choices with you.
  • Collateral ligament injuries are more likely to respond to nonsurgical treatments. However, severe injuries or ones that also involve the cruciate ligaments usually require surgery.

What is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament (commonly called the ACL) is one of four main ligaments in the knee and essentially serves as its main stabilizer. It provides stability in the knee through protection of anterior translation (forward sliding movement of the knee), as well as rotational control. This allows individuals the ability to perform cutting and pivoting activities (suddenly changing direction when running and walking). With an injury to your ACL, these activities are more difficult as the knee can continue to give way.

What is an ACL injury?

The most injured of the ligaments is the ACL, and not just by athletes. Over 250,000 ACL injuries occur annually within the general population. These tears often result in surgery, extensive physical therapy, significant time away from recreational activities, and a likelihood of arthritis within 10 years.

What are the causes?

Most commonly, ACL injuries occur during sports, although they can happen to people who are not athletes as well. ACL tears are sometimes the result of impact and can also occur as a result of twisting injuries. The injury is most often the result of one of the following:

  • Falling
  • Twisting suddenly
  • Changing direction quickly


Symptoms commonly include:

  • “Popping” sound or feeling in the knee
  • Knee pain
  • Swelling in the knee


The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Health are experts at diagnosing these injuries. Our initial exam generally includes:

  • Medical history evaluation : Your doctor will likely ask about how your knee pain first began and any other relevant medical history prior to your pain
  • Physical exam : We will conduct a physical exam, during which your physician may ask about the location of your pain and examine the knee for irregularities.
  • Imaging tests : Scans, such as an MRI, may be done to accurately locate and view the injury and make a diagnosis.

What are the treatment options?

The ACL cannot heal on its own, except in rare cases of a partial tear. However, different individuals tolerate tears differently. For many athletes, whether that is the “weekend warrior” or a professional, surgery is required. The orthopedic surgeons at MedStar Health will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan. There are two main categories for surgical repair, both of which can be done during anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute

  • ACL reconstruction surgery
  • ACL repair surgery

Different patients fall into different categories of surgery based on their age, anatomy, sports activities, and features of their tear found in MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging). We do not take a one-size-fits-all approach, as some surgical methods are better for some types of injuries versus others. Our surgeons customize our approach to your recovery to meet your unique needs.


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