If you watch football enough or keep a social circle with avid fans, you probably know what an ACL (also known as anterior cruciate ligament) tear is and what it means for football players. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is in the middle of the knee and it prevents the shin bone from sliding out in front of the thigh bone. In turn, an anterior cruciate ligament injury is the excessive stretching or tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. A tear may be partial or complete and for obvious reasons, the injury can be career ending for a football player.
However, you don’t have to be a football player to be susceptible to an ACL injury. An ACL injury can occur if you get hit very hard on the side of your knee (such as during a football tackle), overextend your knee joint, or quickly stop moving and changing direction while running, landing from a jump, or turning. ACL injuries often occur with other injuries. For example, an ACL tear often occurs along with tears to the medial collateral ligament and the shock-absorbing cartilage in the knee, known as the meniscus.
So how do you prevent this? The next time you’re doing rigorous sport activities, keep a lookout for these signs and symptoms of a torn ACL:
Knee pain and discomfort: After the injury, most people have to stop whatever activity they were doing. They feel pain or tenderness in the joint area, especially when they put weight on the injured leg.
Knee popping: Many people feel or hear a “popping” in their knee when they injure their ACL.
Knee swelling: A large amount of swelling usually occurs within six hours of an ACL injury and may increase for two days before it gradually subsides.
Knee hyperextension: Some people feel a brief hyperextension of the knee joint when they injure their ACL, which occurs when the knee is bent backward. You may also feel a loss of full range of motion and an uncomfortable feeling when walking, as well as the sensation that their knee is unstable or giving in under pressure.