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Anatomy of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament

The ACL is a cruciate ligament that stabilizes the knee joint, connecting the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). Its primary role is to prevent excessive forward movement of the tibia relative to the femur and provide rotational stability to the knee. When the ACL is injured, the knee may feel unstable, and movements such as twisting or pivoting can become difficult or painful.

Causes and Risk Factors

ACL injuries often occur due to sudden twisting or hyperextension of the knee, commonly seen in sports like basketball, soccer, and football. Several factors may increase the risk of ACL injury, including:

  • Sports Participation: Engaging in high-impact sports that involve rapid changes in direction and jumping increases the risk of ACL injury
  • Gender: Female athletes are at a higher risk of ACL injury compared to males, possibly due to differences in anatomy, muscle strength, and movement patterns
  • Previous Injury: Individuals with a history of ACL injury in one knee are at increased risk of injuring the ACL in the opposite knee
  • Poor Neuromuscular Control: Deficiencies in neuromuscular control, such as improper landing techniques or muscle imbalances, can predispose individuals to ACL injuries
  • Terrain and Environmental Factors: Playing or training on uneven surfaces or in poor weather conditions may increase the risk of an ACL injury


The symptoms of an ACL injury may vary depending on the severity of the injury but often include:

  • Pain: Sudden and severe pain at the time of injury, followed by persistent discomfort and swelling in the knee
  • Swelling: Rapid swelling and stiffness in the knee joint within hours of the injury due to bleeding and inflammation
  • Instability: Feeling of the knee giving out or buckling, particularly during weight-bearing activities or sudden movements
  • Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty fully straightening or bending the knee, accompanied by a sensation of stiffness or locking
  • Popping Sensation: Audible or palpable popping or snapping sensation at the time of injury, indicating possible ligament rupture

Diagnostic Process

Diagnosing an ACL injury involves a thorough evaluation by a medical professional, which includes gathering medical history, conducting a physical examination, and utilizing imaging tests. Essential diagnostic procedures encompass the Lachman Test to assess ACL stability and MRI scans to visualize soft tissues in the knee to determine the extent of injury. A swift and accurate diagnosis is crucial for crafting effective treatment plans and avoiding long-term complications.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

Conservative treatment options for mild to moderate ACL injuries may include:

  • Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)
  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is often recommended for individuals with complete ACL tears or significant instability in the knee joint. Our orthopedic specialists at Excel Health are dedicated to providing comprehensive care and personalized treatment plans tailored to each patient’s needs, focusing on achieving optimal outcomes and returning patients to their active lifestyles.

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