Will an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

Sep 01, 2022

Will an ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

An ACL tear can be excruciatingly painful, and you may think your sports career is over unless you have surgery. However, some ACL tears can heal without significant intervention.

Tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are common among many types of athletes. The knee is a complex joint, and ACL damage can bench you for weeks or months. Some tears can heal without intervention, while others require surgery to restore competitive functionality.

At Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine (AOSM), with locations in Union City and Dyersburg, Tennessee, Dr. Michael CalfeePaxton Sisson PA-C, and the rest of our skilled team can help determine if your ACL tear needs surgery or not.

The great stabilizer: understanding your ACL

Your anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligaments form an ‘x’ inside the knee joint, stabilizing the knee and allowing for smooth back-and-forth motion without letting the shin bone (tibia) slide in front of the thigh bone (femur).

The chances of suffering an ACL injury go up significantly if you play a high-demand or high-contact sport like football, soccer, and basketball. The most common actions that cause an ACL tear are:

  • A stop or change in direction that is sudden and/or violent
  • A land from a jump that ends with one or both feet hitting the ground incorrectly 
  • An abrupt slow-down or halt from a fast run
  • An injury caused by a direct collision to the knee

The ACL can be stretched, torn partially, or completely torn asunder. Many patients who come in with an ACL tear have also suffered damage to the meniscus or articular cartilage.

Treating ACL tears 

Treatment for an ACL tear will depend on a range of factors:

  • The severity of your injury
  • Your lifestyle
  • Plans for future competitive sports

Minor injuries to the ACL may be able to heal with bracing and physical therapy. This is a slow process that may start with bedrest, and involve a slow and steady rehabilitation routine to strengthen the joint. 

More severe injuries, particularly for athletes who want to regain their former performance capability, often require surgical reconstruction of the knee. An ACL injury can often leave the knee weakened, and without surgical repair, another similar injury is more likely to occur.

ACL surgery

In many cases, surgery for ACL injuries can be done using arthroscopic techniques, allowing your doctor to repair the ligament with tiny incisions and very small tools. The procedure might be a simple “retightening” of the ligament, or it could involve an entire knee reconstruction, using tissue from another part of your body or donor tissue to effect repairs. 

Ready to find out if your ACL tear can heal on its own, or you need some help? To get in touch, call the AOSM location closest to you, or book an appointment online.