The diagnosis can usually be made by taking a good history and performing pertinent physical examination maneuvers. X-rays can rule out any bone injury. An MRI is often obtained to confirm the diagnosis and to visualize any additional damage to the knee. Initial home care includes rest, ice, compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.).
Nonsurgical treatment includes physical therapy and bracing and is reserved for those who do not have any additional damage to their knee and those who do not engage in higher impact activities that involve cutting, twisting, and jumping.
Surgery is usually recommended if you are an athlete or participate in activities that involve the motions mentioned above. It is also recommended for those who experience persistent instability and those who have additional damage to their knee.
Surgical options include ACL reconstruction using an autograft (your own tissue) or an allograft (donor tissue). There are many graft options and techniques available to reconstruct the ACL. You and your physician can decide which would be the best options for you depending on your age, activity level, preference and overall condition of your knee.
Physical therapy is necessary after reconstruction to help reduce swelling, regain strength and range of motion and facilitate your return to normal activity. Return to normal unrestricted activity usually takes 9-12 months.
If you believe you have knee pain from an ACL tear, consult with an orthopedic surgeon.