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Signs of an…
Knowledge Center

Signs of an ACL Tear

March 19, 2018
closeup of legs kicking a soccer ball.

Three bones meet to form your knee joint, thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia) and kneecap (patella). The kneecap sits in front of the joint to provide some protection. Bones are connected to other bones by ligaments. There are four primary ligaments in your knee, acting like strong ropes to hold the bones together and keep the knee stable. The cruciate ligaments control the back and forth motion of your knee, forming an X with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in front and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in back. The ACL runs diagonally in the middle of the knee for rotational stability. An ACL injury is the tearing of that ligament in your knee. It often occurs during sports such as basketball, soccer, football, tennis, skiing, volleyball, and gymnastics, because of sudden stops, jumping, pivoting or collisions with other players. How do you know your ACL ligament is torn? Symptoms include:

  • A loud “pop” in the knee
  • Swelling
  • Instability
  • Tenderness at knee joint
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Too painful to bear excess weight


If symptoms indicate an ACL tear, your DOC orthopedic surgeon will confirm the diagnosis and provide the best treatment options. X-rays will not show the ACL injury but will show if the injury involves any fractures. An MRI scan provides images of soft tissues such as torn ligaments. Usually, an MRI is not required for a torn ACL diagnosis. Treatment for an ACL tear varies from immobilization to surgery. Most ACL tears cannot be sutured back together. So to surgically repair the ACL and restore knee stability, the ligament needs to be reconstructed with a tissue graft. After surgery, DOC’s physical therapy focuses on restoring range of motion and strengthening the knee joint and surrounding muscles to ultimately get you back in your game. To learn more about ACL tears, other knee injuries and treatments, visit our conditions page here.

For more information on the cost of care, click here.



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