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Can You Tear Your ACL Without Knowing: Signs and Symptoms


If you think you might have torn your ACL, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms. This leads to the question: can you tear your ACL without knowing? Many people try to tough it out and ignore the knee pain, but this can lead to a further knee injury.

In this blog post, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of a torn ACL so that you can get the help you need as soon as possible.

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)

Before going into ACL injuries, it is important to know what the ACL is. The ACL is one of four main ligaments in the knee that provide stability. It connects the femur, or thigh bone, to the tibia, or shin bone, in the lower leg. The other major ligaments of the knee are the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL).

The ACL can be injured in several ways. In the United States, the most common mechanism of injury is when the knee is bent and a twisting force is applied. This can happen when you land from a jump incorrectly, make a sudden change in direction while running, or suddenly stop. ACL injuries can also occur from a direct blow to the knee, such as a tackle in football.

Types of ACL Injuries

There are three types of ACL injuries:

– Partial ACL tears (ACL sprain), when the ligament is stretched but not completely torn.

– A complete ligament tear in which the ligament is split into two pieces. Complete ACL tears are the most common.

– A complex tear in which both the ACL and another knee ligament or articular cartilage are torn.

Signs and Symptoms of an ACL Tear

The most common symptom of an ACL injury is pain. You might hear a popping sound when the injury occurs. Other symptoms can include:

– Swelling

– stiffness

– instability or “giving way” of the knee

– difficulty walking

If you experience any of these symptoms after an injury, it’s important to see a doctor right away.

An ACL tear can be a very painful injury. The knee may swell quite a bit, and the pain can make it difficult to walk. If you think you might have torn your ACL, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that you can get the help you need. Continuing to participate in vigorous activities could result in further damage to your knee and the surrounding soft tissues.

Can You Tear Your ACL Without Knowing?

The answer to this question is, unfortunately, yes. Many people don’t realize they’ve torn their ACL until they see a doctor and have an MRI. This is because the initial pain can often be manageable, and some people try to “tough it out.” However, ignoring the pain can lead to further damage.

It is also safe to note that personally, I’ve torn both ACLs once, and both times the athletic trainer and surgeon themselves have misdiagnosed me as having NOT torn my ACL.

If you think you might have torn your ACL, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention. They can give you a proper diagnosis and create a treatment plan that is best for you.

Diagnosing ACL Injuries

If you visit your doctor with ACL injury symptoms, they will likely order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm and ensure they have an accurate diagnosis of the injured knee. An MRI can show whether the ligament is completely or partially torn. Your doctor may also order X-rays to rule out other possible injuries, such as a fracture.


Treating ACL Injuries

ACL injuries can range from mild to severe. Proper treatment depends on the type of injury, how bad it is, and the advice of the sports medicine professional you elect to visit.

– A mild ACL sprain can be treated with ice, rest, and physical therapy.

– A more severe ACL tear may require surgery to repair the ligament.

If you have a torn ACL, you will likely need to see an orthopedic surgeon or orthopedic specialist. They will assess the damage and recommend a treatment plan. If you have a complete tear, surgery is usually required to repair the ligament.

The surgeon may use a piece of your own tissue, called a graft, to replace the torn ACL. In some cases, artificial ligaments can be used.

ACL Reconstructive Surgery and Graft Choices

The most common type of ACL reconstruction surgery is arthroscopic surgery. Arthroscopic surgery uses a tiny camera, called an arthroscope, to look inside the knee joint. The surgeon can then repair the ligament using a small incision or multiple incisions, depending on the method they are using. Generally, these incisions are made toward the middle of the knee.

There are several different types of grafts that can be used to replace the ACL. The most common are:

Autografts, use tissue from your own body. The two most common autografts are the patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, and quadriceps tendon.

Allografts, use tissue from a donor. Allografts are less common because there is a small risk of disease transmission.

After surgery, you must adhere closely to the surgeon’s protocol for recovery. This will usually involve a period of rest followed by physical therapy to help you regain strength and range of motion in your knee.

Recovery from ACL surgery can take several months. During this time, it is important to follow your surgeon’s instructions and attend physical therapy appointments to ensure a successful recovery.

Physical Therapy After Complete ACL Tears

Physical therapy is one of the best nonsurgical options you can take to treat your injured knee. Your physical therapist will likely start you on a range of motion and stretching exercises as soon as possible after your surgery. As you heal, they will progress you to weight-bearing and strengthening exercises to ensure you return to your daily activities as quickly as possible.

It is important to follow their instructions, in addition to your surgeon’s, to avoid re-injury after your torn ACL. Most people can return to full activity within six to nine months after surgery. However, it can take up to a year or longer for some people to feel back to normal.


ACL Injuries Between Males and Females

It is well documented that female athletes are more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts. While male athletes also endure these injuries, the rate is significantly lower. It is believed that this difference is due to a combination of anatomical and hormonal factors.

Anatomical Differences

One theory for why female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injuries is that they tend to have narrower hips than males. This can cause their knees to collapse inward (valgus) during certain activities, such as cutting or pivoting. This can put extra stress on the ACL and lead to injury.

Hormonal Differences

It is also believed that hormonal differences play a role in ACL injuries between males and females. It is thought that the increased levels of estrogen in female athletes can make their ligaments more lax (loose). This can make the ACL more susceptible to injury.

While there is no sure way to prevent an ACL injury, there are several things you can do to lower your risk. These include:

– Wearing proper shoes

– Strengthening your muscles from the ground up

– Improving your flexibility

– Practicing good technique when playing sports


Can you tear your ACL without knowing it? Yes, it is possible to tear your ACL without knowing. The best way to prevent this from happening is by wearing proper shoes, strengthening your muscles from the ground up, improving your flexibility, and practicing good technique when playing sports.

If you think you may have injured your ACL, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid further damage to your knee and get you on the road to recovery.

Thank you for reading! We hope this article helped you understand the signs and symptoms of an ACL tear. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us. Stay safe and healthy!