The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the 4 pillar ligaments that make up the knee joint. It’s the link between the femur and the tibia and also ensures the rotational stability of the joint. A torn ACL is reported in over 200,000 people per year, with most injuries occurring in athletes.
Providing a helping hand to the ACL are the medial collateral (MCL), lateral collateral (LCL), anterior cruciate (ACL) and posterior cruciate (PCL) ligaments that keep the joint in place so you can walk, jump, run comfortably.
Furthermore, ensuring that the joint doesn’t easily buckle under intense pressure are the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus that act as the shock absorbers.
Source: Breaking Muscle
In simple terms, it’s a sprain of the of the ACL which, in turn, increases the risk of the joint buckling under any kind of stress or quick movement.
In the most severe cases, the meniscus, articular cartilage, and other ligaments are also damage. There may also be bruises on the bone underneath the cartilage.
Source: Sports Journal
Torn ACL Causes
Most ACL injuries are no-contact injuries. Some of the motions or scenarios are highlighted below:
- A quick or sudden change in direction such as sidestepping movements
- Pivoting with your foot firmly planted in the ground
- Falling in sports such as skiing or football
- Car accidents
ACL Injury Demographics
Women are more prone to a torn ACL or other ACL injuries. The anatomical difference between the two genders is the reason women are more susceptible.
Muscles that surround the ACL, such as the hamstring muscles, takes longer to build and repair in women. Thus, overuse of these muscles can weaken the ACL. In addition, women typically have a wider pelvis than men. This causes the femur and tibia to connect at a deeper angle (known as the Q angle) which means the ACL is put under greater pressure during twisting and turning.
Torn ACL Symptoms
- Usually a “pop” is heard when the injury occurs.
- Swelling within a couple of hours of the injury
- Pain in the knee
- Inability of the joint to bear any weight
- Movement is significantly restricted.
Immediate treatment should be the RICE method – resting, icing the knee, compression, and elevation. Ice should be applied, non-directly, to the knee for 20-30 minutes multiple times per day.
To reveal the extent of the injury an X-Ray or an MRI will be needed. A torn ACL will require surgery and a 8-9 month recovery period. Consulting a physical therapist is highly recommended to make a full recovery during this recovery process.
Source: Physio Works
Tips To Prevent An ACL injury
Some ACL injuries can be avoided by the following measures:
- Warm-up and cool down while playing sports
- Keep yourself hydrated
- Give your body plenty of rest between training or workout sessions
- Sign-up for an ACL conditioning program
- Get the right footwear
- Boost your training with plyometric workouts such as balancing drills, squats etc.