An ACL injury is one of the most common injuries of the knee. It happens when the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the major ligaments in your knee, is stretched or torn. ACL injuries are common in athletes who participate in sports that involve making sudden twisting movements, quick, sharp turns (cutting or pivoting) or jumping and landing such as AFL, basketball, netball, rugby, soccer, and tennis.
While an ACL injury is often a sports-related injury, it can also happen during falls, motor vehicle collisions and work-related injuries. Approximately 70% of sports-related ACL injuries are “non-contact” injuries, meaning they happen without the contact of another athlete.
Usually, ACL tears happen when you overextend your knee joint. The knee buckles or gives out when the anterior cruciate ligament is torn.
Signs and Symptoms
When you injure your anterior cruciate ligament, you might hear a popping sound and feel a snapping sensation in the knee. However, this doesn’t happen to everyone. The most common symptoms of ACL tears include:
• Knee swelling and pain – your knee will swell within hours of an ACL tear. The swelling will usually be quite large and will occur rapidly – within hours – of the injury. The pain experienced is due to the swelling of the joint as well as the extent of the damage in and around the knee joint.
• Knee instability – pivoting or cutting movements common in many sports can cause the knee to give way or be unstable.
• Loss of range of motion – after an ACL tear, you may not be able to bend or straighten your knee like you normally would.
• Tenderness along the joint line.
• Discomfort while walking.
There are many risk factors for an ACL injury, including:
• Participating in high-risk sports such as soccer, rugby, netball, basketball, gymnastics, tennis, AFL and downhill skiing.
• Poor conditioning.
• Playing on synthetic surfaces without the appropriate footwear/boots.
• Wearing poorly designed shoes or footwear that doesn’t fit properly.
• Using poorly maintained equipment.
Treatment for an ACL tear will vary depending on the extent of your injury. Our physiotherapists can determine the severity of your injury with a physical examination and recommend the best treatment option.
Here are some of the options that your physiotherapist may give you:
• First aid – if your injury is minor, first-aid care can reduce pain and swelling. Simply follow the R.I.C.E. model – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation – of self-care at home.
• Medication – anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
• Bracing– your physio may recommend a brace to limit range of motion and help stabilize the knee if other ligamants or bone bruising is involved. You may also be given crutches to avoid putting weight on your knee.
• Rehabilitation– as the swelling reduces, a rehabilitation program is advised. Sports physio rehabilitation includes specific exercises aimed at reducing pain and swelling, restoring your knees full range of motion and strengthening the leg muscles. This should also include a programme such as the PEP programme, Netball Australia’s Knee programme or. the FIFA 11+ programme. To discuss a rehabilitation program for you, speak to the team at Turramurra Sports & Physiotherapy today.
•Surgery – If you have ongoing instability following conservative treatment, reconstructive surgery may be recommended. Your physiotherapist can recommend the best option and surgeon for you to return to maximum function.