ACL Tear: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four knee ligaments that provide support and stability to the joint. A sudden change in direction or pivot on a locked knee can cause the ACL to tear, thus, causing pain. The injury is most commonly seen in athletes who play basketball, soccer and football or sports requiring abrupt leg movements.


  • Unexpected twisting: Sudden twisting or hyperextending the knee may tear the ACL.
  • Rapid movements in certain sports: When the direction of the leg is rapidly changed with the foot firmly planted on the ground, it puts extreme pressure on the ACL and may cause it to tear.
  • Falling from a certain height: ACL tear can also occur when the leg is suddenly stopped in straight or slightly bent position. For instance, jumping from a certain height or falling off a ladder.
  • Skiing Accidents: ACL injuries can also occur as a result of a fall while skiing.
  • Automobile crashes: If your knee experiences sudden jerk in a car accident, it may also cause harm to the ACL.


  • Popping sound: At the time of injury, there may be a snapping sound emanating from the knee.
  • Sudden imbalance: The knee might feel unstable and there could be an unusual movement of the joint.
  • Pain and inflammation: Internal bleeding can cause swelling in the knee. This usually happens within a few hours of sustaining the injury.
  • Limited knee movement: The knee movement can get restricted due to pain and swelling.


The orthopedic doctor may conduct a physical examination wherein the knee is checked for tenderness and damage. The doctor may also check if other ligaments have been damaged. X-Rays and MRI scans may be recommended to determine the severity of the injury.


Most cases of ACL Tear require surgical treatment. However, patients who are not involved in sports activities or have limited physical activity can also find relief with non-surgical interventions.
Conservative treatment for ACL Tear usually includes taking sufficient rest and wearing a knee brace to maintain stability of the knee joint. Once the swelling subsides, the knee surgeon may advise you to undergo physical therapy to restore movement and strengthen the muscles in the joint. Surgery for ACL Tear involves replacing the torn ligament with a tissue graft to restore the stability of the knee.

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