The Orthopedic Blog

ACL Tear Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Posted on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 @ 09:01 AM

ACL Tear Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis 

A tear in the anterior cruciate ligament is commonly known as an ACL tear. It happens most frequently during sports that entail sudden changes in direction and stops when running or slowing down, for instance when playing tennis, soccer, volleyball, rugby, or basketball. Instantly after the injury occurs, the knee may feel unstable, start to swell, and become extremely painful when trying to sustain weight. Many athletes hear or feel a pop in the knee when they incur an injury to their ACL.  ACL tear

ACL Tears – Causes

Ligaments are bands of tissue that are sturdy and connect one bone to the other. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) crosses in the middle and connects the femur to the tibia. Its main purpose is to help stabilize the knee joint. Most injuries related to the ACL occur during fitness and sports activities. A tear can occur when the knee stops unexpectedly, pivots with the foot firmly planted, or twists. When an athlete lands awkwardly from a jump, the ACL tear can be severe.

ACL Tears – Symptoms

Signs and symptoms related to an ACL injury are typically as follows:

  • Severe pain and unable to continue activity
  • A loud “popping” sound
  • A sense of instability or the knee giving away with weight bearing
  • Swelling in knee that normally worsens for several hours after the injury happens

ACL Tears – Diagnosis

During a physical exam, a doctor will check the knee for tenderness and swelling while comparing it to the good knee. He may move the knee into various positions to help verify if an ACL tear did occur. More often than not, the diagnosis of a torn ACL can be determined based on the physical exam alone. However, patients may need to undergo several tests in order to establish the severity of the ACL Injury and to find out if there are any associated injuries. Tests may or may not include the following:

X-Ray – This is necessary in order to determine if there are bone fractures.

MRI – This test can show the extent or seriousness of the ACL tear.

Ultrasound – A doctor will perform ultrasound on his patient to check for other injuries in the knee muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments.

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Topics: ACL tear