ACL Injuries – Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment of Torn ACL

ACL Injuries – Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment of Torn ACL


What is an ACL Injury?

The term ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, which is one of the four main knees ligaments critical for strength and stability of the knees. It joins the lower and upper knee bones. Therefore, an ACL injury refers to an tear or an injury of any kind on the anterior cruciate ligament that occurs commonly during sporting events (such as football, tennis, basketball, skiing and so on) when a sportsperson stops and changes direction abruptly, slows downs or lands after a jump. Such movements could cause the knee to twist, bend sideways or backwards thus cause the injury.

Furthermore, torn ACL could also be caused by knee collision with moving objects, from occupational injuries or falls on staircases or ladders. This injury could be mild or severe depending on how it happened. However, most the ACL injuries do not occur because of collision.

In terms or vulnerability, female athletes are more vulnerable to the condition, especially when they compete in sports/athletics. Similarly, people who are also above the age of 40 are more prone to the condition.


The symptoms experienced in case ACL injury could vary in magnitude depending on the extent of the tear sustained. However, the most common ones include the following:

  • A pop sound on the knee at the time of the injury
  • Pain on the back and outside of the torn knee
  • Swelling of the torn knee within a few hours that could indicate internal bleeding in the knee and in severe cases, swelling might be immediate.
  • Knee buckles and instability
  • Pain during movement, limited movement or both


Diagnosis involves questions on how the how the torn ACL happened, your past medical history as well as a physical examination of the affected knee and the unaffected one. Doctors often check stability, tenderness and movement of the knee. An X-ray may be used to determine if there is any bone fractures or an MRI scan which can show any damages on tendons and muscles on your knee. Some doctors often resort to Arthroscopy.

Treatment of ACL Injuries

In case of a torn ACL, the first recommended step is to receive first aid, which involves resting the knee, icing it and gently wrapping a bandage around it. The leg should then be elevated at a level higher than the heart. Medical care can then be sought to avoid the problem becoming a long lasting one.

Depending on the extent of the ACL injury, various treatment methods may be recommended. The common methods used include the following:

  • Rehabilitation – Training and exercising which might take several months until your knee regains stability and strength.
  • ACL surgery to replace the torn ligament, which will be followed with exercises to rehabilitate your knee.  ACL surgery is recommended in severe cases. Some of the surgical grafting procedures used in dealing with ACL injury include patellartendon autograft, Quadriceps tendon autograft, Hamstring tendon autograft and Allograft.

Finally, while under rehabilitation, you should be careful to ensure you do not get hurt again as this could worsen the situation.

Tips to Reduce Torn ACL

Since ACL injury is common among sportsperson, to avoid chances of this injury, always ensure that you do not wear sporting shoes, which have cheats if you are playing a sport with much contact, use flat shoes (or low healed), and avoid sports that have much twisting and contact.