What is the ACL?
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the strong bands of tissue that help connect your thigh bone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia). An injury to the ACL is a tear or sprain of this ligament. Injuries range from mild (a small tear) to severe, such as when the ligament tears completely or when the ligament and part of the bone separate from the rest of the bone.
Cause and Symptoms
ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing (soccer, football, basketball etc). The injury can happen when your foot is firmly planted on the ground and a sudden force hits your knee while your leg is straight or slightly bent. Like any other body part, the ACL becomes weaker with age. So a tear happens more easily in people older than age 40.
Signs and symptoms of an ACL injury usually include:
- A loud pop or a “popping” sensation in the knee
- Severe pain and inability to continue activity
- Rapid swelling
- Loss of range of motion
- A feeling of instability or “giving way” with weight bearing
Without treatment, the injured ACL is less able to control knee movement, and the bones are more likely to rub against each other, leading to a more chronic ACL deficiency. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may consist of rest and rehabilitation exercises for regaining strength and stability, or in some cases surgery to replace the torn ligament followed by a rehabilitation program. A proper exercise program may also help reduce the risk of an ACL injury in the first place, so if you play any of the above named sports, it might be worth contacting your physio or coming in for an AxIT session to check for any possible weaknesses and to set up a plan to possibly prevent an ACL injury.