An ACL injury is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ACL is the tissue that connects the thighbone to the shinbone, at the knee. Most ACL injuries occur during certain sports such as basketball, soccer, football, skiing, and tennis. Injury may result in a sprained or torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. Symptoms include knee swelling, instability, and pain. Treatment may include surgery and physical therapy.
Many people hear a pop or feel a popping sensation in the knee when an ACL injury occurs. Your knee may swell, feel unstable and become too painful to bear weight. Depending on the severity of your ACL injury, treatment may include rest and rehabilitation exercises to help you regain strength and stability, or surgery to replace the torn ligament followed by rehabilitation. A proper training program may help reduce the risk of an ACL injury.
ACL Injury Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of an ACL injury typically include:
- A loud pop or a popping sensation in the knee
- Severe pain and inability to continue activity
- Rapid swelling
- Loss of range of motion
- A feeling of instability with weight bearing
Common Causes of ACL Tears & Injuries
ACL injuries often happen during sports and fitness activities that can put stress on the knee:
- Suddenly slowing down and changing direction (cutting)
- Pivoting with your foot firmly planted
- Landing awkwardly from a jump
- Stopping suddenly
- Receiving a direct blow to the knee or having a collision, such as a football tackle
When the ligament is damaged, there is usually a partial or complete tear of the tissue. A mild injury may stretch the ligament but leave it intact.
When to see a doctor about ACL Injuries
Seek immediate care if any injury to your knee causes signs or symptoms of an ACL injury. The knee joint is a complex structure of bones, ligaments, tendons and other tissues that work together. It’s important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis to determine the severity of the injury and get proper treatment.
What are the treatment options for ACL Tears and Injuries?
There are two treatment options for ACL injury:
- Nonsurgical treatment such as a brace to protect from instability and physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding ligaments to provide greater stability
- Surgical reconstruction of the ACL to restore the internal structures of the knee to enable maximal stability
Your choice of treatment will depend on such factors as your age, your activity level, and the severity of your injury. You should also talk to your doctor about any preferences and concerns you may have. Patients usually choose reconstruction if they want to continue their sport or other activity, or if they are younger and want to prevent or prolong the time until they develop arthritis in the area. An older adult who just wants to walk and work out on a treadmill may choose to avoid surgery.
Contact us about ACL Injuries
If you have any questions regarding ACL tears or injuries, please contact our office for diagnosis and treatment options.