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Common Symptoms of An ACL Injury

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

What is an Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) Injury?

An ACL injury is the most common injury seen in the knee, with up to 200,000 cases in the United States annually. The ACL connects the thigh bone and shinbone and prevents the tibia from sliding forward. Common causes of an ACL injury include:

  • Quick change of direction

  • Unstable landing

  • Sudden deceleration

  • Foot plant with a sharp pivot

  • Direct blow to the knee

ACL tears – both partial and complete – can happen to individuals of all activity levels. Patients wonder: ‘what are the symptoms of an ACL tear?’ Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurology’s (VSON’s) highly trained team of orthopeadic knee specialists can help. Our knee specialists include:

Common Symptoms of an ACL Injury

ACL tear patients experience symptoms right away. Typically, there can be an initial popping sound, tenderness, and swelling in the knee. Symptoms tend to worsen as time progresses. Bruising, instability, warmth, decreased mobility, and numbness can occur. Additional acute symptoms include:

  • Deep aching and weight-bearing pain

  • Inability to straighten the knee

  • Increased swelling and bruising

An ACL injury ranges from grade 1 to 3 – with grade 3 being a complete rupture. When experiencing symptoms of an ACL injury, patients should seek medical care.

At VSON, our knee specialist team is prepared to provide a comprehensive diagnostic work-up to determine the type of ACL tear and develop a treatment plan to get you back in the game. Our expert team will provide an individualized treatment plan for your ACL tear.

ACL vs. MCL injury

An ACL vs. MCL injury can complicate a diagnosis. The symptoms can appear in a similar manner. Your physician will note the following:

  • ACL vs MCL injury causes - force involving a side collision, obtuse lower leg falls, or repetitive lateral leg overuse

  • ACL vs. MCL injury symptoms - in addition to ACL injury symptoms, a sense of locking or catching of the knee can be present with an MCL injury

An accurate diagnosis of symptoms of an ACL vs. MCL injury will ensure that our knee specialists will provide a treatment plan intended to return the injured knee to normal function and keep you active.

Treatment Options for ACL Tears

For grade 1-2 ACL injury, non-surgical treatment is common, depending on the patient’s activity and fitness level. Rest, limited weight bearing, ice therapy, compression for swelling, and knee elevation begin immediately. After the initial recovery, rehabilitation will begin. Healing may take up to three months or more.

For grade 3 ACL tears, surgery is typically indicated. Today, surgical treatment for ACL tears is done arthroscopically. ACL reconstruction procedures are done with a graft replacing the torn ligament. Options include:

  • Autograft – tendon harvested from patients’ body – often the quadriceps, hamstring, or patella tendon

  • Allograft – deceased donor tissue – often quadriceps, hamstring, or patella tendon

ACL Injury? Contact the Team at VSON!

Our VSON knee specialist team remains on the cutting edge for ACL reconstruction surgery and can assist patients with treatment for ACL tears. Contact one of our knee doctors today!


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