Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)


The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four main stabilizing ligaments of the knee joint. It connects the femur and tibia to aide with stabilization of the knee during activities. It is often injured in such sporting activities as soccer, football and basketball. Injuries to the ACL usually occur after a weight bearing twisting mechanism occurs at the knee such as pivoting to kick a soccer ball. Often times patients will recall a hearing or feeling a popping sensation in their knee at the time of injury. Following the initial injury you might notice pain, swelling, bruising and loss of range of motion in your knee as your body responds to the initial traumatic event. Once theses acute symptoms resolve you might notice a feeling of instability in your knee when walking especially if you change directions quickly.

Are other structures in the knee injured when I injure my ACL?

It is possible to have an isolated ACL tear however it is not uncommon to sustain injuries to other structures in the knee joint. Other structures that can be injured at the time of an ACL injury include cartilage, meniscus, and any of the other surrounding stabilizing ligaments of the knee.

Do I need an MRI after I injure my knee?

MRIs are not always necessary however they are helpful to determine the exact extent of the injury to you knee. Your doctor will order one anytime there is a question as the extent of injury to your knee.

After I initially injure my knee what should I do immediately to help control swelling and pain?

After injuring your knee you might notice a lot of pain and swelling in your knee. In order to improve these signs and symptoms is it important to rest, ice, elevate and apply a compression wrap to the knee. If you have no contraindication to taking anti inflammatories it may be usual to take naproxsyn, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Will I require surgery after injuring my ACL?

This depends on a number of factors to include age, current activity level, desired activity level and whether you have underlying medical conditions that would make it unsafe for you to have surgery. If surgery is determined not to be necessary you can usually be managed non-operatively with physical therapy and bracing.

If I have surgery when can I return to sports that include running, twisting and jumping?

Following surgery it is important for you to be involved in a formal physical therapy program so that you can regain range of motion, strength and balance in your knee. Your physical therapist will lead you through a systematic rehabilitation program with the goal of you returning to sport between 6-9 months.

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San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, Inc.
6719 Alvarado Road, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92120
Phone: 619-308-6757
Fax: (619) 582-2860
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