ACL Injury

Overview

An injury to or tear in the anterior cruciate ligament is known as an ACL injury. The ACL is the ligament that attaches to the knee end of the femur at the back of the joint and passes through the knee joint to the front of the upper surface of the tibia. I cuts across the knee joint in a diagonal shape, crossing the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in an 'X' shape.

When the knee is stretched beyond its limits it is the ACL that usually gives way first, either becoming torn or stretching beyond its limits. This occurs often in contact sports that involve a quick change in direction or lots of twisting and pivoting movements.

Sport medicine professionals at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health Sports Medicine Program understand that an ACL injury can be extremely serious if not repaired correctly and completely.

 

What Causes an ACL Injury?

The anterior cruciate ligament can be injured in a number of ways:

  • Changing direction rapidly
  • Stopping suddenly
  • Slowing down while running
  • Landing from a jump incorrectly
  • Direct contact or collision, such as a football tackle

 

Recent studies have shown that female athletes have a higher incidence of ACL injury than their male counterparts. The causes could be differences in physical conditioning, muscular strength or even differences in the pelvis and lower extremity alignment.


Symptoms of an ACL Injury

When you injure the anterior cruciate ligament, you may hear a characteristic popping noise or feel your knee give out from under you.

Other symptoms of an ACL injury include:

  • Pain accompanied by swelling. Your knee will begin to swell within 24 hours. If ignored, the pain and swelling may go away on its own. But if you become active again, your knee will remain unstable and you risk further damage to the cartilage that cushions your knee.
  • Loss of your full range of motion.
  • Tenderness along the joint line.
  • Discomfort while walking.

 

Treatment

The recommended treatment for an ACL tear will be based largely on the nature of the injury and the patient. If the athlete is young and involved in agility sports, surgery is probably the best option. For older, less active individuals, non-surgical options may be the most effective course of action.

A torn ACL will not heal without surgery. But non-surgical treatments may work if the overall stability of the knee is still intact. Based on your activity level and individual needs, doctors at the FHCH Sports Medicine Program will recommend the best course of treatment for you.

Non-surgical options can include:

  • Bracing: Your doctor may recommend wearing a knee brace to protect your knee from instability. You may also need to use crutches to keep weight off the leg.
  • Physical therapy: As the swelling begins to go down you'll want to begin physical therapy. Specific exercises will restore function to your knee and strengthen the leg muscles that support it.

Learn about ACL surgery.

If you have questions about ACL injuries or want to make an appointment with us, please contact one of our Patient Care Coordinators and they'll be happy to help you.