ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Tear

What is it?

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of four ligaments located within the knee joint. The ACL has two main functions: restrain excessive forward movement of the lower leg in relation to the thigh bone and limit rotational movement of the knee.

The tearing of this ligament is very common in athletes due to the stress that is placed on the knee joint. Tears most commonly occur due to sudden stops combined with twisting motions at the knee joint or from a direct blow to the knee. Only about 30% of these injuries are from direct contact, such as player-to-player. The rest are non-contact injuries. Women are also much more likely to experience ACL tears than men. Girls ages 12-18 are almost 10 times as likely to tear their ACL as boys of the same age.

How does it feel?

When you tear your ACL, you may feel a sharp pain or hear a loud popping/snapping sound. Immediately after the injury, you may struggle to walk on the injured leg but this will pass within a couple of hours. Once you start being able to put weight back on the joint, you may notice that you feel unstable. Most people say that it feels as though the knee is “giving out.” The knee joint will usually swell quite a bit within the first couple of hours after the tear. Physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons can perform special tests to determine the likelihood of an ACL tear. An MRI will be needed to confirm the diagnoses. If you suspect that you may have an ACL tear, call PROCare Physical Therapy at 414-858-1361 for your FREE pain assessment.

How do you prevent it?

Proper strengthening of the leg muscles will help decrease the risk of an ACL tear. Most athletes have pretty strong quad muscles but are lacking in hamstring and hip strength. PROCare Physical Therapy has recently started offering Sports Injury Prevention Assessments to help determine the risk of injury to the ACL. Using video software, we can analyze the biomechanics of the knees and determine the risk for injury. We then provide exercises to strengthen the weak muscles to help decrease the risk of an ACL tear. Call today to schedule your $20 ACL screening today! 414-858-1361

Here are some exercises you can try at home to help with strengthening!


Clamshells- Hip Exercise                                  Hamstring Curls- Hamstring Exercise

One you have an ACL tear, how do you treat it?

Individuals who have an ACL tear and no damage to any other part of the knee can sometimes rehab without surgery. Physical therapy with a focus on strength and conditioning can be enough to postpone surgery or avoid it all together.

Those who don’t go this route (or can’t) will go to an orthopedic surgeon for an ACL replacement. Occasionally, therapy will be recommended before surgery to get the muscles strong. Therapy is almost always needed post-surgery. Work hard in therapy and you should be able to go back to doing the activities you enjoyed before the tear!

If you are dealing with pain, take the first step today. Call PROCare Physical Therapy to schedule a FREE pain assessment today!

414-858-1361 (New Berlin clinic) or 414-727-3345 (Greenfield clinic)

Tags: , , , , ,