Will My ACL Injury Heal on its Own?

If you’re an athlete and have mercifully escaped an injury to your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), chances are someone else on your team or in your league has suffered from this unfortunate knee injury: It’s the most common knee injury, and up to 200,000 ACL ruptures (tears) sideline Americans every year. 

If you’ve experienced an ACL injury of your own, you’re probably looking into your options and wondering if you can possibly get back to peak performance without surgery. 

Dr. Wade McKenna at McKenna Orthopedics fields this question daily. From professional athletes to college and high school prospects to weekend warriors and even everyday folks, he sees countless patients with torn ACLs of varying degrees of severity, and they all ask the same thing: Will my ACL heal on its own? And the answer is, no — but you may be able to avoid surgery anyway. 

Why an ACL can’t heal itself

You may be thinking that if you just leave your knee alone after an ACL injury, your body will do its thing and heal it. After all, this logic works for most other types of injuries, including broken bones. 

The reason that ACL injuries don’t heal themselves like other tissues in your body is the ACL has no blood supply. The ligament would need to be fed by healing components delivered through your blood, but your ligament is isolated and can’t take advantage of that like other tissues, so it can’t regenerate its cells.

Self-healing with the help of stem cells

With no intervention, your ACL will remain torn and unstable. If you’re an athlete with the goal of returning to your sport, this is unacceptable. But surgery introduces even more variables and longer recovery times. 

Dr. McKenna, renowned orthopedic surgeon and founder of Biologic Therapies, a leading research company pioneering stem cell therapy applications, often treats ACL injuries with this ground-breaking technology to promote and speed up self-healing, even in the blood-barren environment of your inner knee. 

He harvests life-giving stem cells from your own bone marrow using his patented BioMac™ aspiration catheter (now the industry-standard method). Far less invasive and less painful than traditional methods, Dr. McKenna’s revolutionary techniques allow physicians to safely extract bone marrow in the office using only a local anesthetic. There is no resulting bone damage, and the procedure only takes about 30 minutes. 

Dr. McKenna then processes your bone marrow in a centrifuge to get a concentrated serum of your body’s own stem cells — blanks cells capable of transforming into any type of cell, including ACL cells. He mixes that with some stem cells from amniotic membrane tissue (donated by consenting mothers after a full-term birth) to boost its effectiveness.

Once Dr. McKenna injects the serum into your knee, the blanks turn into ligament cells. Your inflammation quickly subsides, and your body begins to regenerate the damaged tissue.

Can all ACL injuries heal from stem cell therapy alone?

Depending on the severity of your ACL injury, you may be able to get by with stem cell therapy alone, but there are other factors to consider.

How extensive is the damage?

If your ACL is completely ruptured, and your knee is unstable, you’ll likely require surgery to repair the damage. And in this case, you’re in the best hands with Dr. McKenna.

What are your activity goals?

If you’re elderly and injured your ACL during a fall, or if you’re a fairly inactive adult and injured your ligament in an accident, you can get by without surgery as long as you make some lifestyle changes, such as refraining from activities that call for vigorous movements.

But if you’re a serious athlete or a young, up-and-coming competitor looking to play for years to come, reconstructive surgery is the best option. Dr. McKenna combines stem cell therapy with surgical procedures to enhance the healing process.

Is there secondary damage?

Often, when your ACL is torn, and your knee is unstable, it leads to secondary damage to your meniscus. Dr. McKenna assesses the damage and lets you know the best course of action if you’ve sustained damage beyond your ACL.

If you’ve injured your ACL, don’t assume it can heal on its own, but also don’t assume you need surgery. Each case is unique, and you may be able to benefit from stem cell therapy with or without surgery. To find out what’s right for you, call us at either our Decatur or Trophy Club, Texas, locations or request an appointment online today.

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