The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most important of four strong ligaments connecting the bones of the knee joint. It can be ruptured in twisting injuries of the knee.
Ligaments are strong, dense structures made of connective tissue that stabilize a joint. They connect bone to bone across the joint. The function of the ACL is to provide stability to the knee and minimize stress across the knee joint.
ACL tears occur mainly in athletes participating in pivoting sports such as football, soccer, skiing, and basketball. The athlete typically feels a pop or a tearing sensation and experiences swelling within 6 hours of the injury. There are frequently other structures injured as well—most commonly the meniscus. There is an increasing incidence in female athletes. While some ACL tears can be treated without surgery, most tears in active patients will require surgery.
Modern ACL surgery involves completely replacing the destroyed ligament, and there are a number of ways this can be done. Each method offers specific advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to understand the differences.