Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are one of the most common knee ligament injuries in athletes. They most commonly occur in sports or activities that require a lot of cutting/twisting/jumping movements. Treatment for ACL tears usually involves surgery to reconstruct the ACL and physical therapy to restore normal range of motion and strength in order to return to your previous level of activity/function.

How do ACL Tears Happen?

ACL tears typically occur:

  • In non-contact sports or situations.
  • With an unexpected change of direction while the foot is planted.
  • When landing awkwardly.

Sports/activities where ACL injuries are common include:

  • Basketball.
  • Soccer.
  • Football.
  • Downhill skiing.
  • Volleyball.
  • Gymnastics.

What are The Symptoms of an ACL Tear?

An ACL tear is a major injury. Patients often describe falling to the ground and knowing immediately that they had done something bad to their knee. Other common symptoms of an ACL tear include:

  • Hearing and/or feeling a “pop” as the injury occurs.
  • The feeling of your knee “coming apart” during the injury.
  • Unable to continue with the sport or activity you were doing at the time of injury.
  • Walking on your toes immediately after the injury.
  • Significant swelling soon after the injury.
  • Feeling that your knee will give way if you stand on your injured leg (especially during pivoting or rotating movements) even after the immediate symptoms reside.

When to See a Doctor

It is not uncommon for patients to feel better 2-3 days after the injury when the pain and swelling starts to subside. You may think that the injury isn’t serious, but you should have your knee evaluated.

If you injure your ACL or think you have injured your ACL, see an orthopaedic surgeon. Getting an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment will help you recover and return to your life faster and minimize the risk for arthritis later.

Always get a second opinion about the best treatment for your ACL tear. Find a doctor who has extensive experience in treating ACL injuries.

How are ACL Injuries Treated?

Most ACL tears are treated with surgery.

Athletes who want to return to sport need surgery, along with physical therapy (rehab) before and after surgery.

If you’re less active, you may be able to heal enough for your lifestyle with physical therapy. But the ACL will not heal without surgery.