7 Symptoms of an ACL Tear

ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament; it is one of the four main ligaments in your knee joining the upper and lower leg bones. Tearing it is one of the most prevalent knee injuries, and this injury can be extremely painful and debilitating.

Most often, the tear will occur when you are doing something athletic, which is why these injuries commonly happen to athletes. The injury is not usually because of contact, although that can cause it to occur. The damage is caused by unusual movements such as landing or changing direction suddenly, twisting your knee, bending it backward, or bending it sideways. If more than one of these unusual movements happens at once, the chances of a serious tear increase. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Professional athletes will begin their rehabilitation process even on the same night the injury happened. Read more here

  1. Your knee sustains trauma: Usually, a person is able to remember the exact sequence of events leading up to the injury, including body positions and details about the impact.
  2. Your knee gives out: Since your ACL stabilizes your knee, tearing it seriously will cause your knee to fail and buckle underneath you.
  3. You hear a “pop”:  The “pop” is often so loud that others around you hear it as well.
  4. Pain: Pain in the front of the knee might indicate a problem with your kneecap. Pain on the sides of the knee or inside of the knee might indicate a torn ligament.
  5. Swelling: The pain is instant; the swelling often takes a few hours. Your knee joint will start to fill with blood because there is a blood vessel inside the ligament. The swelling will increase the pain and you will have limited movement because of the swelling. You will have a hard time bending your knee and walking.
  6. Instability: The ACL stabilizes the knee joint, so you might also feel your knee joint suddenly shift. Once you suffer an ACL tear your knee becomes unstable. Even though you may be able to walk, everyday movements such as going up and down stairs or getting in and out of vehicles may cause your knee to give out.
  7. Abnormal physical exam results: When a doctor examines your knee they will look at the stability, range of movement, and tenderness. They will compare your injured and uninjured knee. X-rays can show damage to bones, but you will need an MRI to show ligament damage. Using a procedure called arthroscopy, your doctor can even see inside your knee with a camera which sends an image to a monitor.


Any time you stop suddenly with your leg straight or slightly bent you are putting strain on your knees. People who are inactive or have weak leg muscles can injure themselves even when performing regular tasks and daily activities. Some workplaces have rules about jumping off of things, like the back of a truck, for just this reason. It seems silly, but a knee injury can happen quickly and takes a long time to heal. An ACL tear will not heal on its own. The sooner you get professional help and begin the rehabilitation process the sooner you will begin to recover.

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