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Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury

What is Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear?

An ACL injury is a sprain, stretch, partial tear or complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament - one of the major ligaments in the knee. 

It is one of the most common knee injuries and often occurs during sports that involve jumping, sudden changes in direction and landing. The damage to the ACL causes instability and swelling and makes it painful to bear any weight.

ACL Injury Possible Causes

An injury to your knee that tears the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is an ACL tear. The function of the ACL is to resist abnormal forward movement and rotation of the tibia. 

Sportspersons who play basketball, football, hockey, skiing and gymnastics are most likely to get this tear as these sports require sudden stopping, thereby putting pressure on your knees. Common causes of ACL tear:

  • Abruptly slowing down to change direction or stopping.
  • Twisting with your foot firmly planted.
  • Landing from a jump incorrectly.

ACL Injury Risk Factors

Certain factors can put you at higher risk for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury:

  • Women as a result of muscle conditioning, control, and strength of the leg.
  • Particular sports like basketball, football, volleyball, skiing, hockey and tennis, as they put pressure on the knees due to sudden movements causing sudden twisting injuries.
  • Mostly, persons between the ages of 15 to 45 are likely to get ACL tears owing to their active lifestyle including sports.
  • Your risk of tearing your ACL is higher if you’ve torn it earlier.

Signs & Symptoms of ACL Injury

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear symptoms include:

  • Initial pain that can be traced back to a specific incident which caused the injury.
  • Swelling and tenderness of the knee.
  • Throbbing pain in the knee especially when walking or climbing.
  • Feeling that your knee is wobbling or you’re limping especially when walking specially when changing direction of walking or running.
  • Trouble straightening the hurt knee.

ACL Injury Diagnosis

At Medcare, our expert physicians first understand your medical history and then conduct a physical examination of your injury, noting any swelling, tenderness, pain and range of motion.

In most cases, this is enough for the doctor to diagnose the condition. There is another test called Lachman’s sign test to check specifically for knee stability. Diagnosis of ACL tears depends on the symptoms exhibited by the type of ACL tear:

  • In a grade I tear where the ACL is slightly stretched, the symptoms are mild.
  • In a grade II or partial ACL tear, the range of motion is affected and makes your knee wobble.
  • Grade III tear is a complete ligament rupture and the sure symptom of this, is the fact that you have notable knee swelling with sense of instability and struggling to weight bear.
  • Other clinical tests to assess the meniscus and the medial collateral ligament (MCL) for damage is routinely done in the same setting. 

ACL Injury Treatment Options

At the Medcare Sports Medicine Centre, you can benefit from specialists and facilities and get the treatment best suited for your ACL tear. ACL tear treatment usually starts with a regimen that includes rest, application of ice pack, using an elastic bandage and keeping the knee elevated.

A course of physiotherapy is required to treat an ACL injury especially for inactive persons. Our specialist may also recommend wearing a knee brace and taking pain-killers. Reconstruction ACL tear surgery with graft is often suggested if the injured ACL is significantly symptomatic with instability symptoms interfering with your daily activities and you wish to do sports in the future. This is done through a minimally invasive procedure called an arthroscopy. The specialist will recommend the treatment after considering the ACL tear recovery time without surgery and decide the best option.

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ACL Injury FAQs:

ACL Injury FAQs:


  • Will I be able to get back to my sport after an ACL tear?

    A: If you want to be active but not play strenuous sport like you were doing earlier, then you can achieve fitness through non-surgical options like knee-braces and physiotherapy. ACL surgery is sometimes necessary and with the treatment options that are available at Medcare, you will make a full recovery.

  • What is a Lachman’s test for diagnosing an ACL tear?

    A: The Lachman’s test is an important clinical test to diagnose torn ACL provided it is done by an experienced surgeon. To diagnose an ACL tear, the doctor stabilises the patient’s femur with one hand and then pulls the tibia anteriorly with the other hand. Any instability observed indicates a torn ACL.

  • Can physiotherapy help me recover from an ACL tear?

    A: Yes, if your doctor has recommended physiotherapy, you should get a qualified physiotherapist and begin therapy, as it is likely to benefit you a lot. The therapist will assess your condition, view your medical reports, and create a treatment ACL treatment plan for you. This plan will aim to reduce pain, manage swelling, train you to use assistive devices such as crutches, and teach you exercises to improve your strength and balance. One of the main goals of physical therapy after an ACL tear is to regain normal strength of your quadriceps muscles balancing that with strong hamstrings as good muscle strength will help giving you a more stable knee and can sometimes compensate for the lack of ACL. The physical therapist may use a form of electrical stimulation called NMES or Russian Stimulation and also teach you exercises to achieve this.

  • Can you still walk if you have a torn ACL?

    A: When you have a torn ACL, you will probably experience a sharp pain every time you move your leg, and this could make it difficult to walk as your knee will be unable to support your body weight. ACL tear surgery is usually recommended to completely heal the torn ligament, but some patients prefer to avoid it. 

    While physiotherapy and self-care can considerably reduce the pain and improve the condition of the ligament, it may not fully restore the ligament to its previous state. You can typically resume walking normally after a few months of ACL tear surgery and rehab exercises though. Sportspersons can even return to competing within nine months.

    Want a speedy recovery from your ACL tear? Book an appointment with a Medcare specialist today.

  • Can an ACL tear heal without surgery?

    A: We see a lot of patients with an ACL tear wanting to opt-out of surgery. However, this can only be avoided for a certain amount of time. This is because ACL surgery can drastically improve the condition of the torn ligament and help you resume normal activities. Delaying or opting out of ACL tear surgery may work only if you’re diligent about physiotherapy and rehab exercises. 

    Though keep in mind that it might not fully heal the torn ligament, especially if the ACL is completely torn. Additionally, an untreated ACL tear may have further knee and joint issues as the degenerative forces of age and time act upon it.

    Want to know if surgery is the best bet for your ACL injury? Book an appointment with a Medcare specialist for a consultation today.

  • What happens if you don't repair a torn ACL?

    A: The immediate pain from a torn ACL is almost unbearable and may render you incapable of moving your leg even slightly. However, if left untreated, it may take months for the pain to subside completely. While some people opt for rehab exercises and physiotherapy to heal the torn ligament, it may take substantially longer to heal when compared to ACL surgery. 

    Plus, it may not completely restore the torn ligament to its original state. Additionally, an untreated torn ACL may also lead to life-long problems. For instance, if the torn ligament doesn’t heal properly, it will succumb to constant wear and tear and eventually lead to knee or joint issues, and even arthritis.

    Want to get the right treatment for your ACL tear? Book an appointment with a Medcare specialist today.

  • Is ACL surgery a major surgery?

    A: While ACL, also known as Anterior Cruciate Ligament, injuries are usual amongst sportspersons, normal people can experience ACL tears due to daily movements and activities. ACL surgery, although common, is a major surgery that carries possible risks. For instance, the graft may fail to heal, or there could be knee instability issues. 

    ACL surgeries are of different kinds, such as an allograft reconstruction, autograft reconstruction, synthetic graft reconstruction, or a xenograft reconstruction. Each surgery carries different kinds of risks and the recovery period for each differs as well. Therefore, it’s best to speak to your doctor about the risks, complications and recovery before opting for this treatment.

    Want to get an ACL surgery done but aren't sure where? Book an appointment with a Medcare specialist today.

  • How long does it take to recover from ACL surgery?

    A: Recovery from an ACL surgery takes time as the graft requires a few weeks to heal, and rehabilitation exercises also start showing results gradually. While you may resume normal activities within a few weeks, getting back into sports or complete recovery from the surgery will require at least six to nine months, if not more. A torn ligament may take even longer to heal. However, you can speed up the process by diligently following post-operation instructions and performing rehab exercises such as calf and hamstring stretches regularly.

    Want to recover from your ACL injury as soon as possible? Book an appointment with a Medcare specialist today.

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