ACL Injury

February 4th, 2021
patient getting knee scan

There are more than 100,000 ACL tears/year in the US. ACL tears generally result in surgery, extensive physical therapy, significant time away from an athlete’s sport and friends, and a likelihood of arthritis within 10 years after injury.

What’s an ACL injury?

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, football and downhill skiing.

Most ACL injuries occur without contact while landing or cutting. For this reason, the highest prevalence of knee injuries occurs in soccer, lacrosse, basketball, volleyball and field hockey. Many people hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when an ACL injury occurs. Your knee may swell, feel unstable and become too painful to bear weight. Females are up to 10 times more likely than males to have an ACL injury, playing the same sport. There are multiple reasons for this, but research studies have shown that neuromuscular training to improve landing mechanics can reduce the relative injury risk from 24-82%.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate care if any injury to your knee causes signs or symptoms of an ACL injury. The knee joint is a complex structure of bones, ligaments, tendons and other tissues that work together. It’s important to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis to determine the severity of the injury and get proper treatment.

Depending on the severity of your ACL injury, treatment may include rest and physical therapy exercises to help you regain strength and stability or surgery to replace the torn ligament followed by physical therapy. A proper “return to activity” training program may help reduce the risk of an ACL injury.

ACL Prevention

If you are suffering with any knee pain, let us help you! Your treatment program may include an ACL prevention program! An ACL Injury Prevention program aims to reduce injury risk. This involves learning a proper dynamic warm-up, a targeted strengthening program, as well as a progressive plyometric program. No two people are the same and no two bodies are the same so everyone’s program will look a little different. Our mission at HealthQuest is to help educate and train as many athletes, teams, coaches and parents as possible to help minimize the risk of an athlete suffering this common injury.


Neuromuscular training (NMT) programs that focus on increasing hip strength and core muscle strength can decrease lateral trunk motion and improve how females land when cutting, pivoting and jumping. This training can be part of your treatment, depending upon your goals and lifestyle.

ACL Injury Treatment Options

Immediately after the ACL injury, management consists of RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) of the affected knee.

Once an accurate diagnosis has been made then the doctor and patient can move forward with treatment options. Although surgery is sometimes necessary, not everyone who has an ACL injury is a candidate for surgery. If you don’t have a physician to help walk you through this, let us know, we can help make a recommendation!

Who should have ACL surgery?

The decision to have ACL surgery depends on many factors.

Age. While there is no age cut-off for surgical intervention, it is rarely performed on individuals over age 55.

Activity level. Surgical reconstruction may also benefit young people and those who participate in occupations or sports that involve jumping, pivoting, cutting, or rapid deceleration.

Associated injuries. Patients with multiple knee injuries (ACL plus meniscus, fracture, or medial collateral ligament) generally benefit from surgery to prevent significant activity restrictions and minimize the already heightened risk of osteoarthritis.

While the risk of osteoarthritis is increased after an ACL tear, the effect of surgery on the development of osteoarthritis remains unclear.

Who might not need ACL surgery?

Active individuals who plan to engage in activities or sports that don’t involve sudden stops or turns, such as cycling and swimming, and those who do not have knee instability in their daily lives may be candidates for a trial of non-surgical treatment with an experienced physical therapist to maximize strength, balance, and proprioception (body positioning).

Partial ACL tears are usually managed conservatively with a range of motion, strengthening, and addressing proper biomechanics by an experienced physical therapist. Return to sport is generally appropriate once the athlete has achieved strength and motion comparable to the non-injured knee. If instability develops, further evaluation is warranted.

HealthQuest can help!

Whatever your situation is after sustaining an ACL injury, we can help you! Schedule a free assessment today.

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