Signs Of An ACL Injury

When athletes suddenly stop or change direction, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can get injured. Jumping and landing awkwardly is another common cause of this injury. Athletes need to be aware of the 3 signs to watch for after a possible ACL injury so medical care can be obtained quickly.

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1. Pop goes the ACL

One of the most well-known signs of an ACL injury is a loud popping sound or sensation in the knee. When an athlete makes a sudden move while playing a sport, there is a risk of ACL injury. At this time, the person will either hear or feel a popping sound.

2. Pain and swelling

The second sign an athlete will notice is extreme pain and tenderness in the injured knee. The severity of pain varies from person to person, but most athletes will be forced to stop playing the sport right away because of the pain. Inflammation or swelling can also accompany the initial pain.

3. An unstable knee

Due to the intensity of an ACL injury, an athlete’s knee will become unstable. Most people with this injury find bearing weight on the injured knee extremely painful. After an ACL injury occurs, many people will need help off the field, as walking on the affected limb can feel unstable and uncomfortable.

How intense is the injury?

A healthcare provider should be contacted immediately if an athlete experiences popping, pain, or an unstable knee. The doctor will examine the severity of the ACL injury by performing a physical examination and listening to the patient’s symptoms. Radiological tests such as x-rays can also be ordered to help make the diagnosis.

Grading an ACL injury

The doctor will determine how intensely the ligament is torn during the physical examination. ACL tears are divided into 3 levels. A grade 1 tear is a mild injury, where the knee remains stabilized. Grade 2 is a partial tear of the ligament. Grade 3 is a complete tear of the ligament without knee stability.

Fixing the tear

Management of the injury is based on the grade of an ACL tear. Conservative treatments such as rest, ice, compression, a brace, and physical therapy are typically reserved for minor tears. Completely damaged ligaments require surgery and rehabilitation. The orthopedic specialist will suggest the right treatment after examining the knee.

Mitigating future risk

Athletes can prevent ACL tears by receiving proper training from a sports medicine specialist to avoid injury. Performing the right training and exercises to strengthen the core and muscles may help. Wearing proper footwear and using padding are other helpful approaches. ACL tears can be painful, but by knowing the signs to look for, appropriate medical care and treatment can be obtained right away.

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