Common Problems: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury
Updated: Mar 10
What is it?
An ACL injury is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — one of the major ligaments in your knee. ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing — such as soccer, basketball, netball and rugby.
How does it happen?
Most commonly ACL Injuries happen when the knee is twisted, this can happen when changing direction, pivoting with your foot planted, landing awkwardly from a jump or decelerating suddenly.
Symptoms that suggest an ACL injury has occurred include:
A loud "pop" or a "popping" sensation in the knee
Severe pain and inability to continue activity
Rapid and immediate swelling
Loss of range of motion
A feeling of instability or "giving way" with weight bearing
What you should do?
It is advised that you stop activity immediately and commence the RICE protocol for the first 72 hours following injury:
REST: Stop your activity and limit the amount of weight you put on the leg via the use of crutches or a fixed angle knee brace.
ICE: apply to the knee for 15 minutes every 2 hours
COMPRESSION: Applying a firm compression bandage over the knee
ELEVATION: Lying down with you knee resting comfortably on a pillow above the level of your heart.
You will need to visit your Physiotherapist for an assessment of the knee to determine whether the ACL ligament is still intact. Your physiotherapist will be able to fit you with crutches and/or a knee brace. If your physiotherapist is suspicious of an ACL injury, they will organise with you GP an MRI referral to confirm diagnosis. If there is an ACL rupture, you will need to book in with an orthopaedic specialist to determine whether surgical intervention is required.
Regardless of whether surgery is required, your Physiotherapist will work closely with you to reduce swelling, improve knee flexibility and restore your muscle strength and ability to perform every day activities.
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