ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament is a ligament between the upper and lower leg bone and helps to keep the knee stable. An ACL injury is caused when this ligament gets a tear, preventing proper knee stability. The tear can be mild where it causes minor discomfort and a severe tear that most likely needs surgery to repair it. If you don’t get proper treatment for an ACL injury, you could lose knee movement and the bones will continue rubbing together, in what is called chronic ACL deficiency. Further damage may lead to osteoarthritis.
Causes of ACL Injuries
ACL injuries occur most often after sports or other intense physical activities. If your foot is flat on the ground and something or someone hits you on the side of your knee, it may tear the ACL. An ACL injury is essentially when your knee join is twisted, bent side to side, or bent backward to cause the tear. Other ways of getting an ACL injury include improper landing of a jump, slowing down suddenly after running a sprint, and having to change directions at the last minute. Sports such as football, soccer and skiing require movements that make someone prone to this type of injury. Your ACL weakens with age, meaning it is more likely someone older than 40 get this injury than someone younger.
Symptoms of ACL Injuries
First and foremost, you will feel discomfort and possible pain on the outside or back of your knee with an ACL injury. Other symptoms include hearing or feeling a pop sensation during impact, which is felt on the knee, swelling of your knee within hours of contact or when you think the injury occurred, limited joint movement, and the feeling that your knee is unstable or giving out. More severe tears will cause you to stop movement immediately as it will hurt nearly instantly after the injury which can be a good indicated of the type of injury you have received.
Diagnosing ACL Injuries
The best way to find out if you have an ACL injury is by speaking to your doctor. He will ask you a series of questions about when you think you might have gotten the injury, examine your leg and knee, and take x-rays to determine how much damage was done to your knee and leg bones.
The first step to treating an ACL injury is applying a cold compress immediately, and wrapping it with an elastic bandage. It should remain elevated and you should take an over-the-counter pain reliever and anti-inflammatory to help with the swelling. Once your doctor confirms the injury, he or she may perform surgery to repair the tear followed by physical therapy.