The ACL – Anterior Cruciate Ligament

The ACL. A term that many sporting presenters utilise throughout the season when talking about injuries athletes sustain. But what exactly is the ACL and how do these injuries occur?

What is an ACL Injury?

Your ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is one of four knee ligaments, crucial to stability of your knee joint. It is composed of tough fibrous material and functions to control excessive knee motion by limiting joint mobility.

One of the most common problems involving the knee joint is an anterior cruciate ligament injury or ACL tear. Of the four major knee ligaments of the knee, an ACL injury or rupture, is the most debilitating knee ligament injury.

But what Causes an ACL Injury?

It is usually a sports related knee injury, sustained whilst playing sport or participating in physical activity. Most often, these injuries occur when pivoting or landing from a jump, resulting in the knee giving way, resulting in a tear.

What Sports have a High Incidence of ACL Injuries?

Many sports require a functioning ACL to perform common manoeuvres such as cutting, pivoting, and sudden turns.

These high demand sports include football, rugby, netball, touch, basketball, tennis, volleyball, hockey, dance, gymnastics and much more. You may be able to function in your normal daily activities without a normal ACL, but these high-demand sports may prove difficult.

Therefore, athletes are often faced with the decision to undergo surgery in order to return to their previous level of competition. ACL injuries have been known to curtail many promising sporting careers.

What are the Symptoms of an ACL Injury?

The diagnosis of an ACL tear is made by several methods. Patients who have an ACL tear commonly sustain a sports-related knee injury.

They may have felt or heard a “pop” in their knee, and the knee usually gives out from under them. ACL tears cause significant knee swelling and pain.

How is an ACL Injury Diagnosed?

On clinical knee examination, your physiotherapist or sports doctor will look for signs of ACL ligament instability. These special ACL tests place stress on the anterior cruciate ligament and can detect an ACL tear or rupture.

An MRI may also be used to determine if you have an ACL tear. It will also look for signs of any associated injuries in the knee, such as bone bruising or meniscus damage, that regularly occur in combination with an ACL tear.

X-rays are of little clinical value in diagnosing an ACL tear.

How is an ACL Injury Treated?

Many patients with an ACL tear start to feel better within a few days or weeks of an ACL injury. These individuals may feel as though their knee is normal again because their swelling has started to settle. However, this is when your problems with knee instability and giving way may start or worsen.

ACL tears do not necessarily require ACL reconstruction surgery. There are several important factors to consider before deciding to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery.

  • Your age?
  • Do you regularly perform sports or activities that normally require a functional ACL?
  • Do you experience knee instability?
  • What are your plans for the future?
  • If you don’t participate in a multi-directional sport that requires a patent ACL, and you don’t have an unstable knee, then you may not need ACL surgery.

Luckily we have experienced Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists that can assist in returning individuals who experience ACL injuries back to their previous sporting fitness. Call us on 3191 4455 or click below to book in with one now!

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