ACL injuries are relatively common in the sporting world, and you may have heard the acronym banded about.  Someone may have told you that team member has an ACL injury and you have shaken your head and offered sympathy but not really known exactly what has happened.  Here is a quick guide to ACL injuries for anyone not quite sure what they are dealing with.



What is an ACL?


In the human body, ACL refers to the anterior cruciate ligament.  This is found within a knee and is one of the most significant and most essential ligaments there.  Injuring this area can be extremely painful.



Who is Prone to ACL Injury?


To be fair ACL injury can occur in anyone for a variety of reasons. However, it is more common in the sporting world.  Footballers, those who play basketball, tennis players, skiers, gymnasts and those who play volleyball are all likely to come across this type of injury.  This is because it is caused by things like suddenly jumping, or stopping or changing direction etc., which is something all these athletes do as part of the sport.  Footballers are perhaps the most prone as they skid and one leg often gets pushed far out which is an unnatural position.



What Happens to the ACL?


The first thing that suggests you have an ACL injury is you will feel a popping sensation from within the knee, and this may even be accompanied by an audible popping noise.  From that point on you will experience intense pain that will usually force you to stop whatever you are doing.  The knee will no longer feel stable, and you might feel as if it will give way if you try and stand on it.  The joint will no longer move well and is classed as a lost range of motion.  It is likely that the knee will also begin to swell within a few hours.  These are all signals from the body to stop using the limb, and you would be well advised to listen to it.



Is it Serious?


Potentially some ACL injuries do require surgery to repair the torn ligament.  Sometimes the tear is not as bad, and the damage can be recovered with a combination of physic exercises and rest.  Making sure that you follow a proper training regime and always warm up and cool down properly can help to reduce the risk of it happening but does remain a risk for sports that have a sudden change of moment or direction.  If you think that you have torn or damaged your ACL joint, and specifically have any of the symptoms listed above you should always get an appointment to see a medical professional immediately.  For injuries requiring surgery, for example, you do not want to be using the knee and potentially making things worse.  It is much better to get yourself checked and discover you haven’t torn it than try and wait it out to find you have made matters worse.  Prompt care also speeds up recovery time and how well you do recover so always seek help quickly.







ACL injuries can be all too common in sportsmen and women.  It is actually an injury that can strike anyone regardless of whether they play a sport or not. However, those who participate in games that have a higher impact on the legs are more at risk.  If you have damaged your ACL, you will know the pain involved and understand the frustration of waiting to be fit again.  There are a few ways you can help with your own recovery, and the important thing is not to push it as this will cause more damage in the long run and potentially mean that you do not recover fully.


Waiting Surgery


If you have been advised by your medical professional that you will need surgery resist the temptation to just and wait for your operation.  Instead if your doctor agrees work on a pattern of strengthening and stretching the surrounding areas to ensure that they are strong as your ACL will need maximum support immediately after the surgery has been done.  By creating strength and stretching your quadriceps, hamstring, calf and groin you can speed up your recovery.  Sitting around just causes the body to seise up so try and keep moving to avoid stiffness.  Ask your doctor to show you exercises that stretch the surrounding area without causes any more damage.  Consult an osteopath if you are stuck for advice. If you do not need surgery, these are still perfect exercises to do at this stage of recovery.


After Surgery


Once you have had your surgery you need to do similar again so, once more advise from your physio or primary care provider is vital.  Now you will need to start using the knee itself but need to be careful not to do too much too fast.  Gentle, low impact stretching and strengthening are what is required.  It may be tempting to go all out, but this will just lead to damage and cause the knee not to heal correctly so take it slow and steady.


Important Care


No one should suffer from pain, so don’t be a hero as the saying goes.  Taking the pain medicine enables the body to relax and heal, whereas fighting on in pain means you are stressing your system and healing will be slower.  You may be advised to try cold therapy – which is not always pleasant but does help. Cold has been shown to take fluid from the joint faster and causes blood to gather in the area which promotes healing.  For some ACL injuries, you may also be given a brace to provide compression to the area, this is usually done in tandem with the cold therapy and is proven to be very useful.  The bottom line is to remember you have a temporary weakness in the knee and should be careful to work with, not against this limitation.  Missing training or games can be frustrating, but if you follow the guidance and create a healing arena, you will be back on your feet a lot faster than if you rush things and do further damage.


This post is our opinion only, we are not medical professionals. Always seek the advice from your doctor and physiotherapist regarding any recommendations or advice you have read regarding injury, before you consider it.