Harvard Health Letter

You've torn your ACL. Now what?

A new study sheds light on treatment choices for torn knee ligaments. Surgery may not be necessary.

A 30-year-old skier takes a sharp turn on the slopes and hears a dreaded "pop" in his right knee. He has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — a band of tissue that's important for stabilizing the joint. After icing, compressing, and elevating his swollen knee, he visits the doctor. Now it's time to decide on treatment.

If he's an elite athlete or has additional knee damage, the choice is fairly clear: reconstructive surgery to replace the ACL, plus intense physical therapy. But if he's a recreational skier who doesn't do many knee-stressing sports, forgoing surgery in favor of rehabilitation through physical therapy may be a sensible approach.

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