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Consequences of an Untreated ACL Injury

Healthy knees are really important for a happy existence. Having a knee, which has problems in bending, or knee that lacks the stability to support the body is so difficult to be with.

What is ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament?

ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament is present in the anterior part of the knee and is responsible for knee stability. ACL helps the knee move smoothly. ACL tear is one of the most common injuries of the knee, and is more common in sportsmen.[1]

Causes of Torn ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament

Sports, such as skiing, football, basketball, hockey, or squash are a frequent cause of injury to the ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Twisting of the knee can lead to an ACL tear too. Anything which leads to a quick change in direction or transfer of body weight on another limb can result in a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Fall or being hit by a car can also be a cause of trauma to the knee resulting in a torn ACL.[2]

Symptoms of Torn ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament

A knee with an injured or torn ACL will present the following symptoms. pain, redness, swelling, restricted range of motion, difficulty in walking and limping while walking.

Consequences of an Untreated ACL Injury. So, What Happens If You Ignore A Torn ACL?

Repairing a torn ACL is very important, as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament is responsible for the smooth functioning of the knee. Ignoring a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL can lead to the following consequences.

Pain with Walking. A person with a torn ACL may experience pain in the knee and there may be difficult in walking. The painkillers might reduce the pain and in long run, pain might decrease to some degree, but still, there would be a discomfort while walking with a torn ACL.

Arthritis. Arthritis is another complication or consequence, which might set in due to an untreated ACL injury. A person with a torn ACL is more likely to get arthritis in the early years of his life. Arthritis is a lifelong condition and has no cure. Symptomatic management is the only line of treatment of arthritis.[3]

Joint Stiffness. Without proper treatment of a torn ACL, scar tissue is formed, which can lead to a stiff joint. Joint stiffness is a consequence of ignoring a torn ACL and it limits the range of motion. The scar tissue is also not strong enough to keep the knee stable.

Muscle Atrophy. Not treating the ACL tear will make the person with the injury use the injured limb lesser. Consequently, there would be muscle loss or atrophy of the muscles when a torn ACL is ignored.[4]

Weight Gain from Sedentary Lifestyle. Walking or running with a painful limb is very tough. There would be an intolerance to exercise as the movement would bring in pain or would increase the already existing pain. Physical activity would be very limited. A sedentary lifestyle and weight gain is a bad consequence of ignoring a torn ACL.[5]

Injury to the Other Leg. When one knee has a torn ACL, the whole weight shifts to the opposite leg. There would be chances of an ACL tear in the opposite leg as well.

Postural and Spinal Problems. The change in the gait and posture as a consequence of ignoring a torn ACL can affect other limb, as well as the spine.[4]

Increased Pain & Discomfort. Ignoring a torn ACL would lead to an increase in pain and a lot of other discomforts.


ACL tear is a fixable problem. However, it is also possible to survive without repairing a torn ACL, but be ready to bear the above consequences of ignoring a torn ACL.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 18, 2023

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