Torn ACL treatment options

ACL tears, MCL tears, PCL tears, LCL tears

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A pop and knee swelling during physical activity need prompt medical attention; there's a good chance you’ve torn your ACL or experienced a knee ligament injury. Getting back on your feet may require physical therapy alone or in combination with knee surgery. Duke knee specialists combine the latest advances in ACL surgery with the knowledge and expertise of knee-specific physical therapists. We return you to your active lifestyle faster and pain-free.

Do you need ACL surgery?

If you’ve torn your ACL, the answer depends on your age, activity level, and the severity of your injury. When the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is torn or stretched out of shape, it leads to knee instability. If you’re older, sedentary and not engaging in jumping or twisting activities, physical therapy may be all you need. Younger people who want to remain active will benefit from ACL reconstruction surgery combined with physical therapy before and after surgery.

Your knee relies on four major ligaments to keep it stable. The ACL and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are in the center of your knee. The ACL controls rotation and forward movement of the knee joint, while the PCL controls backward movement. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) controls stability of the inner (medial) knee while the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) controls stability of the outer (lateral) knee.

A thorough examination, including X-rays and MRI, will determine which knee ligament you’ve injured. If it’s your MCL, PCL or LCL, knee surgery may not be necessary. Our experience shows these knee ligaments often heal on their own better and faster with knee bracing, early motion and physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication. When these injuries are combined with an ACL injury, reconstruction surgery may be recommended.

If you need immediate care for your ACL injury:

  • You can make an appointment within 24 hours. Depending on availability, you may be seen by an orthopaedic specialist the same day you call for an appointment.
  • You can get immediate care at Duke Orthopaedic Urgent Care. We provide orthopaedic-specific care at two convenient locations seven days a week. You will experience the convenience of fast service with no unnecessary exposure to sick people in the emergency room.

Seek care from an experienced knee specialist

Duke knee specialists include primary care sports medicine specialists, orthopaedic physician assistants, ACL surgeons and physical therapists who specialize in knee injuries associated with specific sports. We understand how pivoting, sudden stops and starts lead to torn ACLs, and how to strengthen your knee to minimize your risk of re-injury. We know you want to return to the field or your exercise routine as soon as possible and we do our best to help you achieve your goal safely.

  • Our orthopaedic program is ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. Our fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons and doctors perform more than 1,300 knee arthroscopies for ACL tears and other knee problems each year.
  • Our surgical success is based on decades of ongoing research at Duke. We use sophisticated tools to study patient outcomes and measure surgical success with different types of ACL reconstruction.
  • We choose the right graft for your condition. ACL surgeons use your own hamstring tendons, your patella tendon or donor tissue to reconstruct your ACL. Our knee surgeons rely on extensive Duke research and years of experience performing these surgeries when recommending which graft will work best for you. Graft recommendations take into consideration the type of athlete you are, your age, and previous injuries. Our goal is to recommend a graft that minimizes your pain and maximizes your recovery after ACL reconstruction surgery. 

ACL surgery

Physical therapy for ACL injuries

You'll have the convenience of experiencing physical therapy, injury treatment and follow-up at one convenient location.

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