If the legs are swollen and cause severe pain
Swollen legs, severe pain, a cracking noise and suddenly yielding joints - anyone who has ever suffered a cruciate ligament rupture will never forget this moment. Sports physician and neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Eichler, head of the Fulda | Main | Kinzig Spine Center, knows the pitfalls of the injury.
"Unfortunately, cruciate ligaments do not grow together on their own," he explains. Affected people therefore only have the option of either compensating for the instability of the joint through a lot of strength training or undergoing surgery. Doctors especially advise younger professional athletes to do the latter, as a surgical intervention means less long-term health risks for them.
How does a cruciate ligament tear develop?
Few strands of connective tissue hold the thighs and lower legs together. The anterior and posterior cruciate ligament ensure stability. If one of the two tears, this leads not only to severe pain and swelling, but also to gait insecurity and a feeling that the knee joint is shifting. Rarely, injuries to the somewhat thicker posterior cruciate ligament occur. They mostly arise from external violence such as bicycle, motorcycle and car accidents. In contrast, anterior cruciate ligaments tear more frequently and without external influences.
The causes include excessive stretching or bending, especially in ball sports or on the slopes while skiing. "If, for example, the lower leg turns outwards during a descent on skis while gravity pulls the thigh down, the anterior cruciate ligament is overused and tears," explains Dr. Eichler. In ball sports, rapid leg braking is the most common cause of this type of injury.
What treatment options are available?
Shortly after a cruciate ligament rupture, those affected should first raise their legs and cool them. Pressure bandages and pain medication also help with the healing process. In a second step, extensive physiotherapy and strength training serve to relieve the swelling and build up the thigh muscles. "
While conservative measures are sufficient in many cases for tears on the posterior cruciate ligament, surgery is particularly recommended in the case of an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament, especially among younger professional athletes, ”explains the head of the spine center. The most suitable treatment methods include the so-called cruciate ligament replacement plastic procedure.
As soon as the patient is under anesthesia, doctors first remove tendon material from the front of the shin using a cut that is only two centimeters long. From this, they prepare a kind of cruciate ligament replacement and attach it between the thigh and lower leg bones.
After six to twelve weeks, the plastic is usually completely healed with the help of training and a stabilizing splint and has a resilience similar to that of a healthy cruciate ligament. In so far as professional athletes adhere to the regeneration time and practice sufficient muscle building, a comeback and participation in competitions are quite possible. (Sb)