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What is ACL Injury, How Does it Occur, Who is at Risk for ACL Injury, Treatment and Complications

What is ACL Injury?

Tear or sprain in the anterior cruciate ligament is known as ACL injury. Anterior cruciate ligament is one of the major ligaments in the knee. ACL is a band of tissues, which holds the bones together within the knee and also keeps the knees stable.[1]

ACL injury or tear occurs if there is a sudden movement, or a quick and sharp turn while running or jumping. ACL or anterior cruciate ligament injuries are very painful and make it hard to walk or put pressure on the affected limb.[2]

How Does ACL Injury Occur & Who are at Risk for an ACL Injury?

ACL injuries occur most commonly in the athletes or sportsperson and often occur during sports or activities that put stress on the knee, such as.

  • Suddenly changing direction or slowing down can lead to an ACL injury.
  • An awkward landing from a jump can cause ACL injury.
  • Stopping suddenly can cause ACL injury.
  • Receiving a blow or collision on the knee causes ACL injury.

People who play basketball, volleyball, tennis, football, and soccer, or do gymnastics are more likely to twist the knee by mistake resulting in an ACL injury. ACL injuries occur more commonly in women than in men.[3]

Risk Factors for ACL Injury

The risk factors associated with an ACL injury are as follows.

  • Females are more at the risk of getting the anterior cruciate ligament injured due to the difference in the anatomy, muscle strength, and hormones.
  • Improper footwear increases the risk of ACL injury.
  • Athletes who play sports, such as football, basketball, soccer, gymnastics and skiing are more prone to ACL injury.
  • Poor sports equipment increases the risk of having an ACL injury.
  • Playing or walking on unequal or damaged surfaces increases the risk of having an ACL injury.[4]

What are the Symptoms of ACL Injury?

A popping sound is heard during an ACL injury in some people when they get hurt. The symptoms of ACL Injury include.

Pain. If the ACL injury is minor then not much pain is noticed. There will be soreness around the knee and some people may find trouble standing or putting pressure on the affected leg with ACL injury.

Swelling. Swelling occurs after ACL injury and remains for around 24 hours. Swelling in an ACL injury can be reduced by ice application and raising the affected leg by placing it on the pillow.

Difficulty in Walking. After an ACL injury, the person experiences difficulty in walking, as he is not able to put pressure on the affected knee.

Less Range of Motion. The range of motion is affected after the ACL injury. The patient is unable to walk normally, as he is not able to bend or flex the knee properly.[5]

Diagnosis of ACL Injury

For diagnosing an ACL or anterior cruciate ligament injury, the doctor examines both the knees and further tests are also performed if any abnormality is noticed.

  • X-ray is performed to rule out fractures along with anterior cruciate ligament injury.
  • MRI scan is done to get a view of soft tissue and bones. A damaged ACL appears in the MRI images.
  • Arthroscopy is done to look within the joint. A small pencil-sized tool with a camera and a lens named arthroscope is inserted into the joint. The camera projects the image of the joint. If any ACL injury is seen, it is repaired and corrected if needed.[6]

What is the Treatment for ACL Injury?

The treatment plan of ACL injury depends on the severity of the injury and it includes.

First Aid. A minor ACL injury might need just a first aid, which includes. elevating the knee, putting ice on it and bandaging it to reduce the pain and swelling.

Medications. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications help reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling caused by ACL injury. In case of intense pain due to ACL injury, steroid injections are given for relief.

Physical Therapy. There are certain stretching and strengthening exercises, which help the knee to get back in proper working condition. Also, physical therapy is required to prevent the recurrence of ACL injury, which is common in case of a badly repaired ACL.

Knee Braces. Knee brace provides extra support to the knee and are often advised to some people with ACL to wear them when they run or play any sport.

Surgery. A surgery is performed in case of a badly damaged ACL. The surgical procedure involves replacement of the damaged ACL with new tissue to help new ligament grow in its place. After surgery within 12 months, the patient can get back to playing the sport again.[7]

Are there any Complications of ACL Injury?

People who suffer from ACL injury are at a higher risk of suffering from osteoarthritis in the knee. Osteoarthritis in the knee becomes more common in those who have undergone ACL reconstruction surgery.


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:July 15, 2020

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