ACL Reconstruction – General Information

Every year, more than 120,000 anterior cruciate ligament repair surgeries (also called ACL reconstruction surgeries) are performed in the United States alone.  Since a significant number of people who injure their knees don’t seek medical care, it is estimated that the number of ACL injuries in the US is over 200,000 each year.  With ACL ruptures remaining one of the most common knee injuries, it is important to understand ways to prevent it and ways to treat it once a rupture occurs.

ACL and PCL Image

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Posterior Cruciate Ligament cross the knee.

The most common causes of ACL injuries requiring reconstructive surgery are 1) stopping suddenly (deceleration), 2) Changing directions or cutting, 3) Jumping or landing from a jump.  To reduce risk of an ACL injury, it is important to practice good technique when playing sports.  This is often accomplished through specialized training and exercises designed to establish muscle memory for specific types of movements.  It also helps develop and train the stabilizing muscles and ligaments responsible for activities like cutting, jumping, or stopping quickly.

The consequences of a torn ACL can devastate young athletes, middle aged weekend warriors, and even active older adults.  At Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, several of our fellowship trained sports medicine surgeons perform ACL reconstruction surgeries.  Although some of the nuances vary, the general practice remains consistent between doctors.

When the ACL is torn, the physician will need to graft a new ligament in its place.  Generally a tendon is taken from the patient and substituted to act as the new “ligament.”  A tendon is usually taken from the patella or the hamstring of the patient, although donor tissue can be used.  The entire operation is performed through an arthroscope, which means no major incisions.

In some cases where a patient ruptures other ligaments (the MCL, for example), it is more common for an allograft or transplant to occur.  This means that donor tissue is used, which comes only from tissue banks that have earn the rigorous American Association of Tissue Banks certification.

While ACL reconstruction surgery may sound like a very commonplace procedure, it should only be performed by a fellowship trained, board certified sports medicine physician.  This ensures that the doctor has experience selecting and placing the graft.  Clear communication between the physical therapists and orthopedic surgeon is also paramount.

At Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, we started the Bridge Program for athletes who recovered through physical therapy, but want to pursue a high level of activity.  Expert therapists and athletic trainers then help the athletes redevelop skills, strength, endurance, flexibility, power, and so on, all while ensuring that they learn and exhibit proper technique and form.

If you would like to discuss ACL Reconstruction with one of our physicians, please schedule an appointment.