Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is a type of knee injury that occurs when the ACL, which is one of the four main ligaments in the knee joint, is damaged or torn. The ACL connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia) and helps to provide stability to the knee joint. An ACL tear can occur due to a sudden twisting or pivoting motion, a direct blow to the knee, or a sudden stop or change in direction while running or jumping. ACL tears are common in athletes who participate in sports that require jumping, pivoting, or sudden changes in direction, such as soccer, basketball, and football. The severity of an ACL tear can vary from a partial tear to a complete tear, and the treatment options will depend on the extent of the injury.

Causes of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear

An ACL tear can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Sudden stops or changes in direction: Activities that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, such as basketball or soccer, can put stress on the knee joint and increase the risk of an ACL tear.

Direct blows to the knee: A direct blow to the knee, such as during a car accident or a fall, can cause an ACL tear.

Landing awkwardly from a jump: Landing awkwardly after a jump can put stress on the knee joint and increase the risk of an ACL tear.

Hyperextension of the knee: Hyperextension of the knee, or bending the knee backward, can put stress on the ACL and increase the risk of a tear.

Improper technique during sports or exercise: Improper technique during sports or exercise, such as using the wrong form when jumping or pivoting, can increase the risk of an ACL tear.

Weakened ligaments or knee instability: Individuals with weakened knee ligaments or knee instability may be more prone to ACL tears.

It is important to take steps to reduce the risk of an ACL tear, such as using the proper technique during sports or exercise, wearing appropriate protective gear, and strengthening the muscles around the knee joint.

Signs and Symptoms of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear

The signs and symptoms of an ACL tear can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • A popping or snapping sound at the time of the injury
  • Pain and swelling in the knee joint
  • Limited range of motion in the knee
  • Instability or a feeling of the knee giving way
  • Difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg
  • Muscle weakness or decreased muscle control
  • Bruising around the knee joint
  • Pain and discomfort while walking, running, or jumping

It is important to see a medical professional if you experience any of these symptoms, as they can be indicative of an ACL tear or other knee injury. A thorough physical examination, imaging studies such as an MRI, and other diagnostic tests may be necessary to accurately diagnose the injury and determine the appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment for Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear

Physiotherapy is often a key component of the treatment plan for an ACL tear, and may include the following:

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE): Initially, the RICE method may be used to help reduce pain and swelling in the knee.

Exercises to improve range of motion and strength: A physiotherapist can provide exercises to help improve the range of motion and strength of the knee joint. Exercises may include stretching, balance training, and strengthening exercises for the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.

Proprioception training: Proprioception training involves exercises that help to improve the sense of joint position and balance. This is an important component of rehabilitation following an ACL tear to help prevent future injuries.

Bracing: Depending on the severity of the injury, a brace may be recommended to help support the knee joint and protect the ACL during activities.

Return to sport or activity: A physiotherapist can help develop a gradual return to activity plan to help safely reintroduce sports and other activities after an ACL tear.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a torn ACL. Following surgery, physiotherapy will typically be an important part of the rehabilitation process to help restore strength, range of motion, and stability to the knee joint. A physiotherapist can work with the patient to develop an individualized treatment plan based on their specific needs and goals.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear please call us at 03 9836 1126.



De Carlo, M., Armstrong, B., Ashraf, A., Wang, D., Brasington, R., Gochanour, E., … & Allen, C. (2020). Current Rehabilitation Concepts for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Review of Current Concepts and Evidence. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine

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