ACL Injuries

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Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are often associated with high-impact sports such as soccer, football and basketball. It makes sense considering that an abrupt and forceful twist or hyperextension of the knee is often the root cause of an ACL injury. Whether ACL injuries are sports-related or a result of a different type of trauma, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

At OrthoAspen, we’re dedicated to helping all our patients to find the best individual treatment protocol for their ACL injury. We know how important an active lifestyle is for Aspen residents. We’ll do everything we can to get you back to the things you love—efficiently and safely.

Causes & Symptoms

An ACL tear typically occurs as a result of an abrupt directional change with the foot fixed on the ground. Or, when the force of deceleration crosses the knee. Changing direction rapidly, stopping suddenly, slowing down while running, landing from a jump incorrectly and direct contact or collision also causes injury to the ACL.

Since the ACL is one of the major ligaments of the knee, running from the middle of the knee to the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), it prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. Together with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) it provides rotational stability to the knee.

When the ACL is injured, not only is the stability of the knee compromised, but the following symptoms may also occur:

  1. Popping sound when the initial injury occurs
  2. Swelling of the knees
  3. Buckling of the knee during twisting movements
  4. Limited range of motion in the knee
  5. Tenderness in and along the knee joint
  6. Difficulty walking and engaging in normal physical activity
  7. Pain and discomfort at rest and when attempting to move

To definitively identify and diagnose ACL injuries, your OrthoAspen doctor will discuss present symptoms, go over past and current medical conditions and health status, and conduct a complete physical examination.

Diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRI scans and ligament stress tests may also need to be applied to confirm ACL injuries.

Generally, ACL injury diagnoses are divided into three categories:

  • Grade One Sprain
    The ligament is only slightly damaged, but able to withhold the integrity of the knee joint.
  • Grade Two Sprain
    Often referred to as a partial ligament tear, the ligament has become loose but is not detached.
  • Grade Three Sprain
    The knee joint has become unstable due to a complete tear and split in the ligament.

At OrthoAspen we strive to treat any orthopedic injury with nonsurgical modalities whenever possible. In the case of less severe ACL injuries, the following therapeutic treatments may be applicable:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation
  • Physical therapy
  • Knee brace (to help immobilize the knee)

For more extensive ACL injuries, especially in respect to young athletes involved in pivoting sports, our OrthoAspen specialists may recommend surgery.

ACL reconstruction surgery is most commonly utilized for an ACL tear to tighten the knee and restore stability. Surgery to reconstruct an ACL is done with an arthroscope using small incisions.

An orthopedic surgeon replaces the torn ligament with a tissue graft that can be obtained from the knee (patellar tendon) or hamstring muscle. Following ACL reconstruction, a rehabilitation program is started to help patients resume a wider range of activity.

It’s our mission to get our patients back on the field, or to work and play as soon as possible without compromising their safety or comfort.

Contact us any time at 970-544-1289 if you’d like to set up a consultation with one of our OrthoAspen experts.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400