The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is part of the knee. It is susceptible to various injuries that cause severe pain and reduced range of motion.

An ACL injury occurs when the ligament gets stretched beyond its capacity, which leads to tearing. Most commonly, ACL injuries develop during active sports that involve jumping and explosive movements.

Interestingly, 70% of ACL injuries develop without any direct contact to the knee.

In the United States, ACL injuries affect 1 in 3,000 people. The incidence is higher in younger individuals who engage in active sports.

In this article, we will cover the causes, symptoms, and treatment options of ACL.

The causes of ACL injuries

As mentioned above, ACL injuries occur after performing activities that involve explosive movements.

Here are some scenarios that increase the risk of ACL injuries:

  • Sudden acceleration, deceleration, or changes in direction of motion
  • A direct blow to the knee, especially from the side
  • Overstretching the knee

Furthermore, ACLT injuries occur during sports that involve a lot of turning and twisting, such as:

  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Skiing

The signs and symptoms of ACL injury

ACL injuries present with a variety of signs and symptoms. The most notable symptom is severe pain, followed by a popping sound, which occurs when the ACL gets torn.

Other symptoms of an ACL injury include:

  • Swelling
  • Inability to extend the knee
  • Inability to place weight on the leg
  • Soreness around the knee
  • Discomfort when walking

The treatment of ACL injuries

After examining your injury and confirming the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend the following measures:

  • Elevating the foot above the level of your head to prevent blood from accumulating and reduce swelling
  • Applying an ice pack on the side of the injury
  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen) to reduce the swelling

Besides these temporary measures, the doctor will assess ACL injuries on a case-to-case basis to determine the most appropriate therapeutic modality.

For young individuals, surgery may be necessary to ensure a full recovery. Arthroscopy allows your surgeon to repair the damaged portion of the ACL using a tiny tube equipped with a camera and a source of light. The tools get inserted inside your knee joint via small incisions.

In general, the surgeon removes the damaged part of the ACL and grafts a new ligament. The graft ligament could be obtained from your body, a donor’s body, or made synthetically.

Aside from surgery, the following treatments may be beneficial, especially when the knee retains its stability:

  • Using crutches to keep weight off the knee while the ACL repairs itself
  • Wearing a brace to stabilize the knee joint
  • Enrolling in physical therapy sessions to strengthen the muscles around the knee and restore a full articular range of motion

Takeaway message

ACL injuries are fairly common among young adults who engage in explosive sports and strenuous physical activity.

We hope that this article managed to highlight the main aspects of this injury. However, if you still have questions in mind about ACL injury, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Here’s to your health!

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Disclaimer:  This information is provided as an educational service only, and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.  Anyone seeking specific medical advice or assistance should consult his or her doctor or orthopedic surgeon.