ACL Tear: Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment


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What is ACL Tear? 

ACL tear means tearing of the major knee ligament called the anterior cruciate ligament. It mostly occurs during sports activities that involve heavy body movements, sudden stops, jumping or changes in direction. Basketball, soccer, football, tennis, downhill skiing, volleyball, and gymnastics are some of the examples of such sports. Most people with ACL tear can actually feel a pop in the knee when it happens. It often makes the patient feel unstable with a swell in the knee section. About half of ACL tears occur along with damage to other cartilages, such as articular cartilage and meniscus.

There are three types of ACL tear:

Grade I Sprain: This involves stretching and micro-tearing of the ligament. It is not that serious and barely needs surgery.

Grade II Sprain: This involves partial disruption of the ligament. Depending on the severity of the injury, this may require surgery.

Grade III Sprain: This involves full rupture of the ligament fiber. Surgery is usually recommended.

How Does ACL Tear Occur?

ACLtear generally occurs due to:

  • A sudden change in the direction or pivot against a locked knee. This makes the ligament gets stretched.
  • Often the ligament tears when the foot is firmly planted and the knee twists or pivots at the same time.
  • Apart from the stages mentioned above (Stage I, Stage II,and Stage III), one may find Tibial Spine Avulsion ACL Injury, which usually occurs in adolescents. In this type, the entire ACL is torn and the attachment of the ligament to the lower leg bone, known as the tibia, is also pulled off.
  • Depending on the severity of the pull, this may result in weakness or instability, if not taken care of and if left unfixed.

Who is Prone to ACL Tear?

You could be at risk of developing ACLtear if:

  • You put stress on the knee
  • You pivot your foot that is planted firmly
  • You stop all of a sudden
  • You land from a jump incorrectly
  • You get a direct blow to the knee
  • You indulge in vigorous sports activities
  • ACL tears are more common among girls than boys.

What are the Symptoms of ACL Tear? How is ACL Tear Diagnosed?

The symptoms of ACL tears include:

  • Popping sensation in the knee
  • Severe pain and discomfort
  • Swellings
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Knee instability or buckling
  • Loss of bearing any weight
  • Bleeding within the joints
  • Difficulty in returning to activity


At first, the knee needs to be diagnosed for any possible deformity or swelling and the areas of tenderness are checked and noted. The evidenceis jotted down of the knee joint fluid, which is called effusion. Hence, a physical examination is a must. Often X-rays are essential to check if there is any fracture. In some cases, one may also be advised to undergo MRI scans. Surgery is also advised to the patients in extreme cases, based on the type of ACL injury, and also depending on the growth plates. Patients may also need to go through arthroscopy in which a surgeon makes a small cut to put a tool to insert an arthroscope into the joint to look within it to detect any injury.

What are the Complications of ACL Tear?

Some complications it may cause include:

  • Risk of developing knee osteoarthritis
  • Deterioration of joint cartilage
  • Less range of motion
  • Limping

What is the Treatment for ACL Tear?

Treatment for ACL tear depends on the stage it is diagnosed at. Building the muscle strength takes time depending on how bad the injury is. A thorough evaluation of the health history of the patient is a must. Most people who sustain an acl tear supposedly undergo surgery. Few can also return to their daily chores through some rehabilitation programmes and do not need any surgery. Often surgery is followed by physical therapy over a period of 6 to 12 months, depending on the degree of the tear. This is often age-specific. MRI scans and arthroscopy in ACL injury of the knee is also important.

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