The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament in the knee joint that helps to stabilise the knee by preventing the shinbone (tibia) from rotating and sliding too far forward relative to the thighbone (femur). Whilst some degree of motion is normal and required for proper knee function, too much may cause the knee to feel unstable and damage other structures in the knee which could lead to longer term problems. ACL injuries are common in athletes who participate in high-impact sports that involve jumping, pivoting, and sudden changes in direction, such as soccer, football, and basketball.
Diagram illustrating the major ligaments in the knee joint (above) vs. Injury to the ACL ligament (below)
Risk factors for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
- Poor conditioning
- Female athletes are more prone to ACL injuries than males due to differences in anatomy, hormones, and biomechanics.
- Participating in high-impact sports such as football, soccer, basketball, and skiing.
- Having a previous ACL injury.
Symptoms of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
- A popping sound or sensation in the knee.
- Pain and swelling.
- Instability or weakness in the knee.
- Difficulty weight bearing or walking.
- A feeling of the knee "giving out" or a sense that the knee is unstable.
Diagnosis of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
Diagnosis is made on physical examination and further medical imaging including x-rays and MRI may be conducted to assess the extent of the injury. Injuries can range from sprains to complete tears and often there may be other associated damaged structures such as bone, menisci, or other ligaments.
Management of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
Treatment will vary based on each individual patient’s needs and the degree to which the ACL and other structures are damaged. Younger athletes who need to perform sharp movements or are involved in agility sports will often require surgery. Rehabilitation plays a vital role in the management of these injuries, and I provide my patients with a rehab guide as soon as their ACL injury is diagnosed and immediately link them up with an experienced sports physiotherapist.
I’m available to help and treat patients with sports related knee injuries in South Australia and the Northern Territory. If you require a prompt assessment and management plan to help you get back to where you want to be – Book an appointment in my Rapid Sports Injury Clinic (Click Here).