Treating ACL Injuries

By Dr. Regina O. Hillsman

As a Connecticut-based private practice physician and orthopaedic surgeon with more than 30 years experience in the field, I offer specialized care for sports, work, and arthritis-related injuries. One type of injury I offer extensive professional experience repairing is torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) of the knee.

As one of the four primary ligaments surrounding the knee joint, the ACL plays a critical role in ensuring unimpeded, proper movement of the knees. More than the other surrounding ligaments, the ACL acts as a knee stabilizer. ACL injuries range from small tears to severe cases where the ligament has been completely torn. They are particularly common in contact sports such as football, where a player may be planted in one direction and receive a side hit or tackle from another. Other sports such as skiing, martial arts, and basketball require short, sudden shifts in the knee position which commonly results in ACL injuries. ACL tears are often accompanied by a sharp popping sound and subsequent swelling and instability when standing on the affected leg. Interestingly, studies have found women to be more susceptible to ACL injuries due to a combination of differences in ligament strength, unique movement patterns, and hormone variations.

There are non-surgical healing options available for ACL injuries; by making lifestyle changes that minimize wear on the knee joints, many people allow the tendon to heal on its own. This “conservative management” strategy makes use of a knee brace and regular guided physical therapy sessions. ACL surgery is generally recommended for individuals who engage in athletic activities as a vocation or profession. While the other tendons and ligaments often compensate for a torn ACL to some degree, if the condition persists other knee injuries are much more likely.

For those requiring ACL surgery, I reconstruct the torn ACL either utilizing portions of the patient`s patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or through donor grafts. While utilizing the patellar tendon allows for bone-to-bone healing, thus providing the highest-security graft, it often results in persistent knee pain. The hamstring tendon graft creates fewer disturbances and less resulting pain, but lacks stability to an extent. While donor tissue grafts are increasingly common, the sterilization process kills living cells of the graft, resulting in a longer and less predictable healing process.

For those who regularly engage in high-impact activities but have not yet developed significant ACL injuries, I recommend undertaking preventative neuromuscular training that improves muscle strength, balance, and instills proper movement habits. Visit my website at drhillsman.org to learn more about the orthopaedic services we offer children and active adults.

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About drreginahillsman
After graduating cum laude from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. in Biochemistry, Dr. Regina O. Hillsman won admission to the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. As a medical student, Dr. Regina O. Hillsman demonstrated an unwavering commitment to her future profession, earning entry to Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and graduating with honors and distinction in 1977. Upon receiving her M.D., Dr. Regina O. Hillsman began a series of internships and residencies at some of the top-ranked teaching hospitals in the Northeast, including Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Montefiore Medical Center, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Washington, D.C. Consortium of Hospitals, where she served as Chief Resident from 1981 through 1982. At the completion of her formal education and post-doctoral clinical training, Dr. Regina O. Hillsman began a long and successful career in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. In private practice since 1995, Dr. Regina O. Hillsman maintains an office in Naugatuck, Connecticut, offering a wide range of surgical procedures and treatment options for area patients. Over the years, Dr. Regina O. Hillsman has helped countless individuals recover from various issues related to neck and back pain, sports and work injuries, arthritis, pinched nerves, and more, with an excellent record of patient satisfaction. Dr. Regina O. Hillsman holds additional affiliations with New Milford Hospital, Ridgefield Surgical Center, and the Hospital of Saint Raphael. A frequent recipient of honors and awards from professional and civic organizations alike, Dr. Regina O. Hillsman has been named Physician of the Year, won the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce Foundation Business Women's Forum Award, and, on multiple occasions, was presented with the Outstanding Young Woman of America Award and the Physician's Recognition Award. To read more about Dr. Regina O. Hillsman and her work, visit her official website at drhillsman.org.

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