Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear

About Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the four main ligaments that connect the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). These ligaments are fibrous, like a rope, and hold the knee together, stabilizing the joint. Since the ACL is made up of two parts, an ACL tear can be a partial tear, where only one of the parts is torn, or a full tear, where both parts are torn.

This type of knee injury usually happens during some kind of physical activity, sports or exercise. It results from a quick change of direction in forward motion, a twisting or pivoting motion, or sudden stops where the foot and lower leg are planted and the top part of the knee keeps moving forward, following the law of inertia, causing the ligament to tear. It is a very common sports injury both for competitive athletes and those involved in exercise or recreational sports.

Symptoms include intense pain and swelling of the knee, loss of range of motion and weakness with weight-bearing on the leg. Sometimes a “popping” sound can be heard when the ligament tears. This popping noise in the knee can be startling.

For a competitive athlete, a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament requires surgery to repair the tear, if they wish to return to their sport.  Non-competitive, yet active people may also choose to have the tear surgically repaired, so they can continue to be as active as they were before the tear. It is possible to rehabilitate the knee and not have surgery, but activity may be somewhat limited.

Repair of the ACL tear involves removing the damaged ACL and replacing it with a tissue graft, usually from either the patellar (knee) tendon or a hamstring tendon.

Learn more about the surgical repair of ACL tears.

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