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My knee feels better after an ACL tear, should I still have surgery?


Updated October 28, 2009

Question: My knee feels better after an ACL tear, should I still have surgery?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four major knee ligaments. ACL tears are a common sports-related injury, and often requires surgical reconstruction. Without surgery, athletes with an ACL tear may have recurring problems with knee instability.
Answer: After an ACL tear, the knee is usually swollen and painful. Patients who sustain this injury are uncomfortable and know they have a serious problem with the knee joint.

These patients are often seen by their physician, who diagnoses the ACL injury, and helps to treat the acute symptoms. Once the swelling improves, and the pain subsides, patients often feel "normal."

Do I still need ACL surgery?

One common question of patients who sustain an ACL tear, and then start to feel much better, is if they still need surgical reconstruction of the ligament. It can be hard to accept the rehabilitation needed after ACL surgery if the knee starts to feel good again.

Unfortunately, if the ACL is completely torn, there is no chance of the ligament healing properly. While not everyone needs a functional ACL to perform activities, athletes who participate in certain sports that require pivoting maneuvers are unlikely to be able to return without a properly working ACL.


Tambe AD, et al. "Anterior cruciate ligament insufficiency: does delay in index surgery affect outcome in recreational athletes." Int Orthop. 2006 Apr;30(2):104-9.

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  8. Surgery After ACL Tear - Should I Have ACL Surgery

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