Ligament sprains and tears in the knee are common injuries in athletes and typically occur as a result of knee overextension, twisting of the knee with a planted foot, abrupt shifts in weight from one leg to the other, or landing on a flexed knee. Of the four ligaments in the knee, the ACL is the most commonly injured, with ACL injuries affecting approximately 95,000 individuals in the United States annually.
It is no secret that tears and sprains of the knee ligaments can be debilitating and painful, and depending upon the severity, may require surgery to repair. The severity of the ligament injury is represented by a grade:
Grade 1 sprains: are those with less than 10% of the ligament fibers torn
Grade 2 sprains: are those with more than 10% of the ligament fibers torn with the ligament still intact
Grade 3 sprains: are also known as complete tears, with the ligament being completely split
The recommended treatment for knee ligament sprains and tears is variable as it is directly contingent upon the severity of the injury. Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine provides the following types of treatment, depending on the injury’s grade.
Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine uses cortisone injections for reducing pain and inflammation for an array of joint injuries. In certain injuries that are solely inflammation based, such as tendonitis, cortisone injections can act as a cure but with injuries that involve tearing of ligaments, cortisone injections are used for long term inflammation reduction.
Braces are typically used for grade 2 sprains as they restrict the knee’s range of motion but don’t eliminate its ability to move entirely, allowing the knee to regain flexion and extension while confining rotational movement.
Physical therapy is almost always the first recommended course of action for grade 1 and 2 sprains of the knee and is often advised for grade 3 sprains as well. Therapy is conducted with the goal of decreasing the injury’s pain, restoring the knee’s range of motion, and helping it gradually regain strength. Rest, ice, compression and elevation, also known as the RICE protocol, are a typical part of the rehabilitation process.
Surgery is utilized by Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine only when necessary for grade 2 or 3 sprains where the ligament is severely torn. Reparative or reconstructive surgery options may be used to repair the ACL, MCL, PCL, and LCL with precision. ACL tears are usually the most serious and require surgical intervention more often than tears to the other three major ligaments of the knee.
The gravity of the tear to the ligament determines the type of surgery that is performed, but when possible, Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine employs arthroscopic surgery, which is minimally invasive. Serious tears may necessitate reconstructive surgery, which requires the use of a graft to replace the ligament.