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ACL tear: definition, symptoms, causes

Goficure - Blog Page - ACL tear: definition, symptoms, causes (Blog Post) Last Updated March 18, 2024


ACL or anterior cruciate ligament tear is a common knee injury and mostly affects physically active people and athletes who play high-impact sports like soccer or football.

A sudden maneuver during work, playing sports, or during an automobile accident can cause an ACL tear or sprain.

You can hear a snap sound during the injury and the pain can be mild to severe. There will be immediate swelling in the knee which can be limited by icing.

Most people recover fully from ACL tears without any long-term complications. If the symptoms are severe, you may need surgery to recover completely from an ACL tear.

What is an ACL tear – definition

An ACL is a knee ligament connecting the thigh bone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). Overstretching, bending, or twisting the knee in force can tear or sprain the ACL.

It is very common among athletes who often get ACL injuries due to sudden landing, changing directions, or jumping during sports.

ACL tears can be:

  • Partial when the ACL is torn partially. Treatment can be rehabilitation exercises and physical therapy
  • Complete ACL tear can affect your normal activities even walking. An ACL tear surgery is needed for complete recovery
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What are the symptoms of ACL tear?

If you have experienced an ACL tear, you are likely to have the following ACL tear symptoms:

Instant sharp pain

Unlike other knee conditions such as osteoarthritis, with ACL tear, you will experience immediate, sudden, and sharp pain associated with the injury

Rapid swelling

Following the injury, the injured area will be swollen within 24 hours, lasting up to several days. The swelling may subside on its own without any treatment.

Mobility loss

You will experience a diminished range of motion. There will be noticeable instability in the knee following the sprain. You will find it difficult to pivot the leg or walk down the stairs.

Deep, aching pain

The pain will gradually become worse and you will find it increasingly difficult to walk or climb down stairs.


Can you walk with an ACL tear?

Yes, though there will be tenderness, swelling, pain, and discomfort after an ACL tear, you can still walk.

After the pain subsides and if the injury is not severe, you can go up and down stairs and walk in a straight line.

If you are diagnosed with an ACL tear, you should give your knee some rest. Limit your activities and avoid jumping, running, turning, or twisting your injured leg as it can worsen the condition.

Stop your suffering NOW

Don't just jump into a surgery because your doctor is advising you to go for it. Consult our doctors to know if you need a surgery at all. Rest assured, we WON'T recommend you surgery unless it's the last resort.

What causes ACL tear?

An ACL tear may happen from playing contact sports or doing heavy physical work.

ACL tear causes include:

A sudden shift of direction

If an athlete or a person suddenly pivots maneuvers or changes direction, it can cause an ACL injury.

Landing incorrectly

Suddenly landing or jumping on the ground with one foot while playing basketball or volleyball can injure the knee.

Suddenly stopping or slowing down

If a footballer suddenly stops or slows down, it can hyperextend the anterior cruciate ligament causing a tear.

Overstressing or exerting

The ligament loses elasticity over time due to overexertion or overstretching.

Direct hit or collision

A direct blow or hit to the knee can injure the ligament.

Twisting of the knee

A sudden fall or jump can twist or bend the knee backward or inward.

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Final words

An ACL tear is a common injury and does not always require surgery. Home treatments like icing the affected knee, elevating the leg, adequate rest, and anti-inflammatory medication can relieve the symptoms.

A rehabilitation regimen, physical therapy, and a leg brace are possible treatments for an ACL tear. Surgery is recommended based on the person’s lifestyle and needs. If the person performs a physically demanding job or is an active sportsman, or if the ACL tear is severe, surgery is recommended.

  • Give your knee adequate rest
  • Elevate the affected leg
  • Use crutches to offload pressure from the knee
  • Perform high-intensity activities
  • Miss physiotherapy appointments
  • Return to running or heavy-duty work before complete recovery

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