An anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injury is a tear in one of the ligaments that connects the femur to the tibia.
The ACL runs diagonally through the middle of the knee joint and functions as a stabilizer, preventing the tibia from sliding out from the femur.
An injury to the ACL can range from a minor tear to a full ligament separation from the bone.
ACL injuries often occur during physical activity or sports, especially those involving stop-and-go movements, weaving, pivoting, or jumping.
Female athletes have an increased risk of ACL injury, which may be attributed to biomechanics, anatomical differences, and hormonal differences.
However, there are preventive measures any athlete can take to improve their strength and modify movement during physical activity.
Symptoms of an ACL injury
-Feeling/hearing a pop in the knee at the time of injury
-Severe pain around the knee
-Knee swelling within the first few hours after injury
-Limited range of motion in the knee
-The knee feeling unstable or buckling
Prevention of an ACL injury
While an ACL injury may not be completely avoidable, there are ways athletes, specifically female athletes, can reduce their risk.
The best way to prevent an ACL injury is to strengthen the muscles in the leg, primarily focusing on the quadriceps and hamstrings.
There are programs that can help prevent ACL injuries by teaching an athlete safer performance techniques, the best ways to stretch and strengthen muscles, and injury awareness.
Treatment for an ACL injury
Following the injury, it is important to reduce swelling and pain first.
-Use a gentle compress
-Elevate the injured knee
-Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
-Use of crutches and/or splints
-Gently strengthen the area to improve range of motion
Depending on the severity of the injury, additional treatment may be necessary. A physician can properly assess the injury and help the patient decide what treatment option is best. Additional treatment option may include:
-Physical therapy/Physical rehabilitation program
-ACL reconstruction surgery