5 ACL tear symptoms that could indicate that you have torn your ACL
Regardless of whether you are a professional sports athlete or weekend warrior, experiencing an ACL tear is a devasting and emotional injury. In this article, we discuss the 5 dreaded ACL tear symptoms that will you with fear after injuring your knee.
Not all 5 symptoms necessarily need to present to indicate that a person has suffered an ACL tear.
As long as 1 or more of the 5 symptoms listed below are present in the individual after an injury then a professional diagnosis is likely to be required.
A professional diagnosis will help to determine if the ACL has been torn or if damage to the other knee ligaments or cartilages has been incurred.
What is the function of your ACL
Upon incurring a knee injury one of the first questions that are often asked is whether or not the ACL has been ruptured. An ACL injury is of significant concern to athletes due to the importance of the ligament in facilitating movement and stability for running and turning actions.
The ACL is critical for controlling movement between the two main bones of the knee, the femur and tibia bones. The ACL is also important for stopping the tibia sliding out in front of the femur.
What are the key risks of a torn ACL
Tearing or rupturing the ACL causes instability in the knee and can increase the risk of cartilage damage and potentially premature osteoarthritis if knee functionality and stability is not returned.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is most commonly injured whilst exercising or playing sports that such as American Football, Basketball, Australian Rules Football, Netball, Hockey and Skiing.
Of course, ACL injuries are not just limited to sporting incidents and can be suffered as a result of many different types of physical and recreational activities.
5 dreaded ACL tear symptoms
ACL tear symptoms experienced by an individual athlete can vary in intensity depending on the nature of the incident which caused the ACL to tear in the first place.
If your ACL has been torn, the intensity of the tear symptoms can also be impacted by whether or not there was any other damage within the knee such as the cartilages.
5 of the most common, yet dreaded, ACL tear symptoms experienced during physical activities or recreational pursuits following an ACL rupture include:
ACL Tear Symptom 1 – the dreaded pop
At the moment of injury, you may hear a loud popping sound. This is a unique symptom commonly associated with ACL ruptures.
The dreaded POP is an unmistakable and obvious ACL tear symptom that can also often be heard by bystanders.
ACL Tear Symptom 2 – giving way or collapsing of your knee
Feeling of instability and “giving way” with certain activities such as whilst playing sports is a clear indicator or a damaged ACL.
If you have torn your ACL, “giving-way” or collapsing of your knee might not be obvious until you engage in physically demanding activities that involve sudden changes of direction.
For other people, soon after injury collapsing and instability are evident even under low-stress activity.
ACL tear symptom 3 – strong pain
A very common tear symptom is the immediate onset of pain and burning in the knee upon rupture of the ACL.
ACL tear symptom 4 – Lots of obvious swelling of the knee
The ruptured ligament can often cause the knee to fill with blood within one to two hours of injury leading to discomfort and difficulty with walking.
ACL tear symptom 5 – Loss of full range of motion
A torn ACL symptom common to most athletes is that they cannot fully extend the knee or straighten as blood fills the knee.
After the injury, what should I do if there are ACL tear symptoms?
Upon injury of your ACL, you are advised to immediately seek the assessment of your trained therapist or doctor who will assist you with diagnosis and injury management procedures.
In the event that your doctor or therapist diagnose a suspected ACL tear, you should seek the opinion of multiple surgeons to determine if ACL reconstruction surgery is the most appropriate option for you.
It is important to note that ACL reconstruction surgery is an elective procedure and normally there is no rush to make a decision unless your knee is giving way.
If the decision is made to have ACL surgery, your next steps include:
- Choose a surgeon who performs many ACL reconstructions every month, you are comfortable with and has an excellent reputation within your community
- Discuss the timing of your surgery with your surgeon
- Undertake ACL prehab before surgery with guidance from your therapist and surgeon – unless there is a requirement to immediately perform the surgery soon after the injury
- Understand your ACL graft options and the procedure that your surgeon intends to undertake
- Educate yourself on your ACL rehabilitation protocols which are especially important in the early stages of your rehabilitation
Partial ACL tear symptoms
A partial ACL tear refers to an ACL injury where only a portion of the ACL is damaged such as for example when only one of the two bundles is torn.
In some cases, partial ACL tears are severe and the extent of damage is similar to that of a complete ACL tear. To that extent, partial ACL symptoms may be similar in nature to complete ACL tear symptoms.
Partial ACL tear symptoms may present like a pulling or tearing feeling inside your knee which could also, however, indicate a complete tear of your ACL.
Trying to identify the extent of damage to a partial ACL tear can be difficult and more complex than a complete ACL tear.
Diagnosis of a partial ACL tear is often diagnosed through a combination of clinical assessment, imaging, and an arthroscope.