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How to Tell If You Tore Your ACL: Signs and Treatment


The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a crucial ligament that stabilizes our knee joint when we’re bending, rotating, or jumping. And if you are an athlete, then you know how important it is to keep your knees healthy for maximum performance.

Unfortunately, accidents happen, and sometimes athletes end up tearing their ACLs. If you think that you may have torn your ACL, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms so that you can get the appropriate treatment.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to tell if you tore your ACL, as well as the treatment options available to you.

ACL Location

If you’re completely new to the anatomy of an ACL. We’ve got you covered.

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a soft tissue or ligament that is located in the middle of the knee and is one of its main ligaments. The ACL is located in the front of your knee and connects your thigh bone to your shin bone.

Your ACL helps keep the knee stable and prevents it from moving too far forward. If this movement wasn’t prevented your meniscus would be severely damaged due to sports or various activities. Your menisci act as the main shock absorbers for the knee joint.

The ACL is also surrounded by two other collateral ligaments, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located behind the ACL. Together, these four ligaments help to stabilize the knee joint and allow it to move freely.

But when the ACL is torn, it can cause intense pain and require surgery to repair.

Reasons for ACL Tears

There are a few different reasons why an athlete might tear their ACL. One of the most common is direct contact with another player, such as when two football players collide while going for a tackle.

Another common cause is when the knee is twisted awkwardly, such as when a soccer player makes a sudden change of direction. To reduce the risk of ACL tears, athletes need to be properly trained in how to move and land safely.

Athletes also need to wear proper protective equipment, such as knee pads and braces. With proper precautions, the risk of ACL injuries can be greatly reduced.

How to Tell If You Tore Your ACL

Now that we know where the ACL is and the reasons why it can tear, let’s discover the symptoms you’ll experience.

The most common symptom of an ACL injury is sudden, sharp pain in the knee. This pain is often accompanied by a “popping” sound, which is caused by the ligament tear.

Other symptoms of an ACL injury include:

– Swelling in the knee within 24 hours

– Knee stiffness and loss of range of motion

– Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected leg

– Instability or “giving way” sensation in the knee

– Feeling of instability or “giving way” in the knee

– Knee pain or tenderness

– Bruising on the knee

If you experience any of the symptoms of an ACL tear, see a doctor right away. They will be able to properly diagnose your injury and recommend the best course of treatment.


Types of ACL Injuries

ACL injuries are a common occurrence among athletes, particularly those who play sports that involve a lot of cutting and pivoting movements. 

There are three main types of ACL Injuries:

A complete ACL tear is a full tear of the ligament, while a partial tear is a partial tear. A strain is a less severe injury that occurs when the ligament is stretched beyond its normal range of motion.

All three types of ACL tears can be extremely painful and may require surgery to repair (complete and partial).

A complete ACL tear is the most serious type of injury and typically requires surgical intervention. On the other hand, a partial ACL tear may also require surgery, depending on the severity of the damage.

Finally, an ACL sprain is the least serious type of ACL injury and usually heals with rest, ice, and physical therapy. However, all ACL injuries should be treated by a medical professional to ensure proper healing and to prevent further damage.

What to do if you have a torn ACL

If you have a torn ligament, the best course of action is to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible. ACL surgery is usually recommended to repair the damage and prevent further injury.

During the procedure, the surgeon will make a small incision in the lower leg and then insert a graft to replace the damaged ACL. Following surgery, you will need to undergo physical therapy to regain the full range of motion and strength in your knee.

Overall, the recovery process can take several months, but most people can return to their previous level of activity within nine to fifteen months.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options for ACL

Many people think that ACL surgery is the only way to treat a torn ACL. However, several nonsurgical treatment options can be just as effective.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often the first step in proper treatment. A physical therapist can develop a customized rehabilitation program to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve the range of motion.

Wear a Knee Brace

Another nonsurgical option is to wear a knee brace. A knee brace helps stabilize the knee joint and take some of the pressure off of the ACL.

Make sure to consult with a doctor before choosing a knee brace, as different types of braces are better for specific ACL tears. 

Get a Cortisone Shot

A cortisone shot is a type of steroid injection that can help to reduce inflammation and pain.

Cortisone shots are usually only recommended if other nonsurgical treatment options have failed.

Undergo Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) injections

Platelet-rich plasma therapy involves taking a sample of your blood and then injecting it into the knee joint. This promotes healing by increasing the number of growth factors and platelets in the area.

These injections can help to reduce inflammation and pain, making it possible to resume normal activities.

Undergo Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy is a newer treatment option that involves injecting stem cells into the knee joint. The stem cells help to promote healing and regeneration of the ligaments.

Take Medication

Several different medications can be used to help reduce pain and swelling. These include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen, as well as prescription-strength medications.

Surgery should only be considered if all other non-surgical options have failed to relieve pain and improve function. ACL surgery is a very successful procedure, with most people regaining their full range of motion and returning to their previous level of activity within nine to fifteen months.

If you have a torn ACL, the best thing you can do is to see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible to discuss your treatment options.


Bonus Tip

Whether you’re choosing to go through surgery or not, booking psychotherapy sessions is a must if you want to experience successful rehab. Psychological therapy is a key part of any nonsurgical treatment option for ACL tears.

Your emotional well-being of the patient is just as important as your physical recovery. Psychological therapy helps you develop the right mindset for recovery and provide support during this difficult time.

Therapy also lets you discover different coping mechanisms for dealing with pain and setbacks. In addition, therapy can help to improve communication between you and your medical team.

Overall working with a therapist helps you develop a better understanding of your injury and learn how to acquire an optimistic view of your healing journey.

Trust the Experts

Anyone who has ever suffered from a serious injury knows the importance of trusting the experts. The journey to recovery can be long and difficult, but it’s essential to be patient and listen to the advice of those who know best.

When it comes to recovering from an ACL tear, be open to following the guidance of your doctor, physical therapist, and psychologist. Not only will they help you fully recover, but also prevent further injuries down the road.

Trusting the experts may not always be easy, but it’s always worth it in the end.