ACL Injury

What is an ACL Injury?

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury involves the tearing of this ligament in your knee. The ACL crosses the middle of your knee and connects the thighbone to the shinbone.

How Does it Happen?

Most often, ACL injuries happen during fitness and sports activities, usually when you turn sharply or pivot and twist your knee.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

When you tear your ACL, you'll probably experience the following symptoms.

  • A "pop" at the time of the injury
  • Severe pain
  • Swelling of the knee
  • A feeling of instability in the knee

How is it Diagnosed?

If you suspect that your tore your ACL, your doctor will do a physical exam. By examining your knee and observing how it reacts to pressure and how it moves, he or she will be able to detect an ACL injury. Your physician may also use x-rays or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to review your knee and access the damage.

How is it Treated?

When your ACL tear is painful, you should keep it elevated when possible and ice it for 15- to 20-minute periods. Some over-the-counter painkillers can help. You can also wrap the knee or use crutches for added support. A physical therapist can work with you to help with range of motion and improving strength.

If the ACL tear is severe and these treatments don't seem to help-or if you want to resume an active lifestyle-surgery may be the best option for you. For ACL repair, a surgeon will use a tendon (either from your body or a cadaver) to reconnect the thighbone and shinbone. This procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis.

What is the Prognosis?

After surgery, you will need to wear a knee brace for several weeks, and it may be six months before you can get back to your regular sports and activities. However, after that point, the vast majority of knee patients report good results and excellent recovery.