How Can You Tell if You Tore Your ACL & What Happens if You Do?

You have two ligaments in your knee: one in back and one in front. They go diagonally, basically forming an X. That helps to keep your knee stable while you are trying to walk or do anything. The anterior cruciates ligament, or ACL, is the one that goes in front.

Usually, you can go around for years without that ligament causing any problems, but it can tear. A torn ligament can be completely severed or just have a tear, but still be in one piece. Generally, an ACL tear is related to a sports injury, but it can happen to anyone. If you have hurt your ACL, what are your options and what will your recovery look like?

What Are the Signs of an ACL Injury?

The first sign of an ACL injury is a very audible pop and a painful feeling of a release in your knee. The pop is actually the sound of the ligament tearing. The feeling of a release is because the tension that helps to hold your knee stable has disappeared and now it is unstable. The pain generally sets in almost immediately, as well as the swelling. If and when you try to walk, you will feel that your knee is very loose and unstable. 

What Happens After an ACL Injury?

Your doctor is going to do some tests to definitively diagnose an ACL tear. One of them will probably be sending you to get an MRI. Soft tissue damage doesn't show up on an X-ray. An MRI is the best way to find that kind of damage. Your doctor will use the results to make sure that it is an ACL tear and the severity of it. Once your doctor has all that information, they will be able to send you to an orthopedic surgeon. 

What Will the Surgeon Do?

The surgeon will do a few things. One of them is that they will probably send you for physical therapy. That therapy will help to strengthen the remaining cruciate ligament in your knee and to helping control your pain. 

Your surgeon may also schedule a surgery. The surgery will replace your ligament. They can use a donor graft to replace it, or they can use a graft that comes from your own body. The surgeon will cut out the torn ligament and then thread the graft into your knee. The ligament will be secured to the bones above and below your knee so that it can grow where it belongs. You will likely go back to PT after the surgery to help strengthen the new ligament. 

With surgery, you can bounce back from an ACL tear and get back to your normal life. For more information, consult resource such as Framingham Orthopedic Associates.