How to Identify an ACL Tear

Many sportsman dread the thought of having to go through with an ACL repair. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is a ligament located between the femur and tibia in your knee. It is responsible for most leg movement around the knee. This injury is relatively common among groups of people involved in sports or labor that requires excessive legwork.

How to Identify an ACL Tear

The Symptoms           

The specific location of the ACL can make it difficult to identify the symptoms of a tear. The most common symptom comes in the form of a loud pop during movement. This popping may cause swelling and pain, which will prevent you from continuing whatever activity you are doing.

The Causes

The most common ways the ligament can be torn is by repetitive and improper leg use. There can either be an uneven dominance placed on a certain leg or a muscle group in the legs. The asymmetry causes unnecessary stress to the ligament over time and creates an environment for damage.

Reliance on the strength of a specific muscle group, such as the quadriceps, at the expense of a related muscle group, in this case the hamstrings, can cause damage to the ACL. This is because there will be an uneven distribution of stress over the leg which will reduce stability.

Over time, the stress will cause the sufferer of an ACL tear to rely more on the damaged leg and overexert themselves to make up for a loss of performance due to pain. The excess stress will exacerbate the problem and lead to chronic pain.

Another cause of an ACL tear is trauma to the leg around the knee area. This trauma can occur during a car accident, or in a sport such as football.


The tear will most likely be identified by way of an MRI that can identify damage to the ligaments between the bones. After the MRI has identified the problem, your doctor will recommend treatment to start the ACL repair process.

The most common treatment for an ACL tear involves managing knee movement and trying to create a better distribution to help the knee heal. This will mean plenty of physical therapy aimed at increasing strength and stability of the muscles around the knee. The doctor will more than likely recommend a knee brace as well to help keep the knee stable during waking hours.

For those who participate in sports,the tear can make it almost impossible to continue playing. The pain associated with the injury, paired with the general instability of the knee, won’t allow for most athletic movements needed for sports.

Due to the nature of an ACL tear, a doctor will usually recommend surgery as a course of treatment. After surgery is done, however, the patient will have to stay out of sports activities for months while rehabbing the knee.

Overall, among similar sports, women are more likely to experience the injury than men. The reason for this correlation is unknown, however women who participate in such sports as soccer and basketball that require jolted leg movements and jumping should consider the possibility of an ACL repair if symptoms are present.

If you feel like you have an ACL injury, seek medical attention, and have them recommend your best course of action.


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