Can I Do More Damage Walking on a Torn ACL?

Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament
ACL injuries are painful especially when trying to exercise. (Image: Jana Blašková/iStock/Getty Images)

The ACL is a ligament, which is a strip of soft but strong connective tissue. Without the ACL and three other ligaments, you couldn't stand or move on your own. Each year an estimated 200,000 ACL injuries occur in the U.S., according to a 2005 article in the journal "Elsevier." If you suffer a knee injury you should understand how to deal with it, and whether walking with a torn ACL can aggravate the original injury.

Anatomy Lesson

According to "Elsevier," the four longest, biggest and strongest bones in our body are the femur (thigh bone), the tibia and fibula (two bones below the knee), and the patella or kneecap. The ACL is one of four ligaments that connect the upper to the lower leg bones, and keep the knee intact and functioning well. Active people who participate in strenuous sports are considered at high risk for ACL injuries. But surprisingly only one-third of the injuries can be traced to contact or collision with other people or players. Almost 70 percent are due to sudden twisting movements. Half of the injuries involve not only the ACL but other ligaments and parts of the knee joint.

Tear and Rupture

ACL injury can take the form of a small tear that causes the ligament to bleed and the knee to swell. The person affected may feel unsteady, unbalanced, with his knee about to give way. At the extreme, the ligament may actually rupture or snap. In both cases the injured has to seek professional help to stop the pain and prevent more damage to the ACL because the injury is not treated or treated incorrectly. The long-range goal of treatment is to restore the knee to its pre-injury state or as near to it as possible.

First Aid for ACL Injuries

For first aid, doctors usually recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression through bandages and elevating the feet). Walking may be difficult for the first few days after the injury and you may have to use crutches and other health aids to help you walk. The National Institute of Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends range of motion exercises that involve gentle and regular stretching movements as well as exercises that improve muscle strength and aerobic exercise to keep the heart healthy and weight down.

Walking and ACL Injury

Walking should not cause any further damage if you feel less pain, you have recovered your sense of balance, maintain an even and steady pace, and avoid the sudden twisting movements that caused the injury in the first place. It is best to consult your doctor. Most doctors encourage ACL patients to walk and exercise as soon as they can after the injury, especially if it is relatively minor.

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