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How to Know if You Tore Your ACL: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatments

Tore Your ACL

Did you know that ACL tore is the reason behind most knee injuries in athletes? Many people who have ever encountered ACL injury reported feeling a pop in the knee at the time of injury. The severe pain is disturbing for the athletes, and many of them feel heartbroken on their return to the sports fields.

What is ACL, and how does it get torn? How do you tear your ACL, and how to recover from it? We have explained everything right here in this blog post.

What is ACL?ACL

ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament, contributes to knee stability, and prevents the shinbone from sliding out in front of the thighbone. ACL keeps the knee in position by holding its bones together. As a result of various sports activities such as kicking, landing, jumping, or striking, ACL gets torn, resulting in knee strains.

Just because your fellow athlete got his ACL torn and never returned to the field does not mean that the same will happen to you. Although it is extremely heartbreaking and frustrating to bear the emotional and physical pain for an athlete, there are still high chances of recovering from an ACL tear.

Since the knee bears the most weight in a daily routine, such as while walking, running, jumping, and during sports activities, this is one of the most susceptible to any injury. The knee joint comprises the femur, tibia, patella bones, and various soft tissues, including ligaments and tendons. Most knee injuries usually affect ligaments which results in limiting a lot of movements. Since ACL is responsible for back-and-forth movement of the knees, a tear in ACL tends to unstable the knee joint. As a result, you may feel a twist in the knee joint while walking or doing any regular activity.

Cause of ACL TearACL Tear

ACL injuries are generally common among those athletes who play football, volleyball, soccer, cricket, basketball, or any sport that involves abrupt and rapid changes in direction. Any physical object that lands directly on the knee or any accidental collision may also result in a knee sprain.

ACL strain stresses the knee and can happen deliberately to any athlete during athletic activities. There are a few causes of an ACL tear listed below:

  • A direct blow on the knee during sports such as soccer and football when an object directly collides with the knee.
  • An object or the person collides with any body part other than the knee, and the excessive forces are abruptly transferred to the knee resulting in an ACL tear.
  • Incorrect landing, abruptly changing the movement, or hyperextension of the knee are the major contributing factors behind an ACL tear.
  • Wearing improper and poorly maintained footwear and equipment during sports often leads to ACL injuries.

ACL Tear Symptoms – How to Find Out if I Tore my ACL?ACL Tear Symptoms

The knee joint is made of various soft structures, which give it stability to withstand a lot of activities. Any direct or indirect collusion that may result in tearing the ACL can limit your movements for longer than expected. Whenever you feel any symptom related to an ACL tear, you should get it diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to save yourself from any heartbreak.

How to know if you tore your ACL? Here are a few symptoms to watch out for!

Knee Instability

The ligament is the primary structural unit in the knee, so the knee joint becomes unstable when an ACL tear happens. You may experience difficulty in your daily routine and feel knee twisting, even while walking.

A loud POP sounds

An audible pop sound is produced when an ACL tear occurs. The sound is quite higher and can be heard by fellows near you. An instant shift usually follows the pop sound in the knee joint.


The knee is surrounded by a lot of blood vessels that are responsible for maintaining blood flow. When an ACL tear happens, the blood vessels rupture, disturbing the joint blood flow. This results in the swelling of the joints and makes the knee look red.

Knee pain

Any pain in the knee joint is an indicator that something is wrong. Due to rupture in the blood vessels, the area around the knee feels excruciating. The severity of pain depends upon the damage done to the joint. Complete damage in the ACL can cause severe pain and sudden assistance from the therapist.

Limited Movement

Since the ACL tear leads to the joints swelling, it makes it quite difficult to move the knee joint. The knee joint’s movement angle is affected, and it also becomes difficult to move the lower leg below the knee. A person may even find walking difficult without an assistive device such as a stick, walker, or Crutcher.

When to See Your DoctorA patient to See their Doctor

The knee holds most of your weight during your regular activities, so if you encounter any injury or feel instability in your knees, it is time to seek help from your doctor immediately. The knee joint has a complex structure, and any injury to your ACL may result in developing osteoarthritis in the knees. Even if the ligament is surgically reconstructed, there are still some chances of arthritis developing in the knee. A prompt and immediate doctor visit is important if you feel that your ACL is torn.

In general, you should visit your doctor if you feel any of these signs:

  • Difficult to stand or walk after the knee injury.
  • Any painful sensation, redness, or swelling in the knee that lasts more than 48 hours.
  • It gets difficult to put any pressure on the knee.
  • After a knee injury, the popping sound keeps coming out of the knee joint.

If you suspect any signs while encountering a knee injury, do not delay your visit to your doctor. Based on your symptoms, he will perform certain tests such as Lachman Test or Anterior Drawer Test to assess if you have injured your ACL.

How to Prevent an ACL Tear?

An ACL injury is a nightmare for any athlete as it can be of serious nature and even restricts sports activities for an unspecified amount of time. Practicing a few useful tips can minimize your chances of encountering an ACL tear.

  • Exercise strength training that targets the ACL and significantly reduces the chances of getting any severe ACL injury. It is recommended to exercise high-intensity jumping or do any exercise that strengthens the hamstrings of the thigh.
  • Focus on strengthening the small muscles of the legs and knees to prevent any sudden or unexpected twists in the knee.
  • Focus on stretching the leg muscles, especially on the back and front thigh muscles.
  • Improve the stretching of the rotational muscles of the ankle so after the abrupt landing. There is a lesser chance of encountering a twist in the knee that can result in an ACL tear.
  • Wearing ill-fitted shoes can result in disrupting knee movements. Always wear properly fitted shoes during any sports activity, so there are minimum chances of ACL injury.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the risk factors for causing an ACL tear?

Females, as compared to males, have more chances of suffering from an ACL tear. Wearing ill-fitted footwear or using faulty equipment also leads to an ACL tear.

What are the complications that result from an ACL injury?

Any tear or strain in the ACL may result in causing Osteoarthritis in the knee. In case of severe injury, Arthritis may still occur even after the surgery is performed.

Which tests are performed to find out if you have torn your ACL?

There are basically two tests performed to determine if you have torn your ACL: Lachman Test and Anterior Drawer Test.

How many types of ACL injuries are there?

There are basically three types of ACL injuries. In the first type, only a small portion of the ligament has torn, which leads to a partial-thickness tear. In the other type of full-thickness tear, the entire ligament is torn, while in the complete tear, the fibers of ligaments are pulled away from one another.

MRI or X-ray – Which is the best way to determine if the ACL is torn?

An X-ray cannot visualize any change in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments as it only visualizes the structural changes in the bone. MRI is performed to diagnose an ACL injury.

How to find out if I have torn my ACL?

If you hear any pop sound coming out from the knee after an injury, it strongly indicates that something has happened to the knee. The swelling, pain, and stability are signs that you have injured your ACL.

Can an ACL tear fix on its own?

A full or partial ACL tear cannot get fixed on its own. These tears can only be treated surgically, such as through arthroscopy.

Why is ACL tear more common in female athletes?

Since females have lesser muscle mass around the knee, in case any ligament gets overstretched, which leads to an abrupt ligament tear. Also, female athletes have a different pattern of landing on the floor and need to bend their knees more. This is why female athletes have maximum chances of encountering an ACL tear.

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