Can I continue running with a torn ACL?

Running with a torn ACL might to possible after conservative rehabilitation but it also depends on the degree of the tear and accompanying symptoms. The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is responsible for stabilizing the knee joint while engaging in physical activities such as running.

An incomplete or full rupture of the ACL can result to knee pain, instability and swelling. If an individual sustained a torn ACL, it is best to set an appointment with a doctor regarding suitable treatment measures.

Close look on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

The ACL is positioned in the knee and connects the shinbone and thighbone. The ligament is responsible for stabilizing the joint by preventing the shinbone from moving forward during activities such as running.

A torn ACL can occur after a fall, direct strike or twisting movement. Once the ACL is sprained, it might result to an incomplete tear or grade 2 sprains or a full rupture or grade 3 sprains. In severe cases, an individual might damage the ACL together with other ligaments in the knee as well as the cartilage or meniscus.

What are the symptoms?

Torn ACL

The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is responsible for stabilizing the knee joint while engaging in physical activities such as running.

Right after sustaining a torn ACL, the individual can experience the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Diminished knee function
  • Instability of the joint

Always bear in mind that the severity of the symptoms are based on the damage caused by the injury and the reaction of the body. In some individuals, there is no evident instability of the joint after a partial ACL tear while others might suffer knee instability that disrupts with normal running and walking. Even if knee instability is absent, running right after sustaining a torn ACL is not likely due to the pain and swelling.

Conservative treatment for a torn ACL

The objective of conservative rehabilitation for a torn ACL involves managing the pain and swelling as well as restoring normal knee movement, stability and strength. Once these goals are met, the individual can resume his/her normal running routine.

On the other hand, the individual can continue to suffer from disrupted knee function such as instability or diminished range of motion even after finishing the rehabilitation process. Nevertheless, using a knee brace while running can help deal with the continuous knee instability as well as pain after rehabilitation.

Possible complications

As for cases that involve knee instability in which surgery was not performed can develop cartilage or meniscus damage over time. Secondary injuries such as meniscus tears and even arthritis can result to further pain and swelling which impairs the ability to run long-term.

For cases that involve chronic knee instability and secondary injuries, it can also result to muscle loss or atrophy, scar tissue buildup or adhesions and diminished range of motion in the knee. Proper treatment and resuming normal activities only after the affected knee is completely healed are vital in preventing future knee injuries while running.

Considerations to bear in mind

In case the symptoms continue after the rehabilitation program, the individual runs competitively or sustained full rupture of the ACL, the doctor might recommend surgery before running can be continued.

After the rehabilitation, the individual is required to minimize the running pace as well as distance temporarily. Any alterations or inadequacies such as a minor limp in the running technique can affect the overall athletic performance and can even increase the risk for future injuries.

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