Sports, hobbies or work that require frequent pivoting and turning often cause anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains or tears. ACL injuries are the most common knee injuries, many of which require surgery. About half of all injuries to the ACL also occur along with damage to other structures in the knee, such as articular cartilage, meniscus, or other ligaments.
Injured ligaments are considered “sprains” and are graded on a severity scale of one to three. Most ACL injuries are complete or near complete tears, or grade three sprains. Symptoms may include hearing or feeling a “pop,” intense knee weakness, pain with swelling, loss of range of motion, tenderness along the joint, and discomfort when walking.
Diagnosing an ACL injury usually involves a doctor’s examination and X-rays or an MRI or CT scan.
If the overall stability of the knee is intact, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical options. Rest, ice, bracing, and physical therapy may help those who have slight injuries or do not have an active lifestyle. Surgery is needed for active patients and those with serious tears. Rebuilding the ligament with a tendon from the patient or a cadaver, followed by physical therapy and rehabilitation, will help get the patient back to normal.Previous Page Last Review Date: January 4, 2018