My knee hurts, how do I know if I injured my ACL or not?
We all see the athletes on TV get hit and tear their ACL, but 75% of ACL tears actually have no contact involved and typically are related to a sudden deceleration prior to a change in direction or landing with your leg in an extended position. Typical symptoms of ACL tears are feeling or hearing a pop in the knee, decreased range of motion in the knee, feeling of instability in the knee, feeling like your knee is giving way, not being able to make hard cuts around corners and compensating by rounding corners. Weakness and inability to contract your quadriceps muscle is typical after injury. Pain can vary widely after a ACL injury and is not a reliable indicator for whether you tore your ACL or not.
What should I do if I think I tore my ACL or have other knee injuries?
You should see your doctor as soon as possible. Until you are able to see your doctor, you can follow the PRICE treatment for the acute phase of a injury. This stands for pain control typically with NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, rest of the affected knee, ice, compression of the knee with a compression sleeve, and elevation of the knee as often as possible.
Do I really need to see my doctor or can I just wait to see if it gets better?
It is important to have ACL and other knee injuries adequately evaluated and treated by a medical professional. 60-75% of all ACL tears are associated with other ligament injuries as well and need be evaluated and managed. Failure to have a ACL tear appropriately managed can increase your risk of long term knee pain from arthritis.
If I tore my ACL do I need surgery?
Not all ACL tears require surgery. Whether you need surgery or not depends on the extent of the tear as well as personal preference towards surgery and physical therapy amongst other factors. This decision has to be made on a patient-by-patient basis, which is why it is important to see your physician.
How can I prevent ACL tears?
There is excellent evidence that plyometric and proprioception exercises dramatically decrease the risk of an ACL tear. These exercises include using balance boards and balance balls for approximately 20 minutes, 2-3 times a week.
If you have any further questions or live in the North Texas area and are worried that you may have a ACL tear, feel free to e-mail Dr. Huber via our contact page.
1. Ost Fam Physician 2015;7(10):8-12
2. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 1996;(4):19-21