Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear (ACL Tear)
What Are ACL & PCL Injuries?
Torn Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
A posterior cruciate ligament tear occurs when the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), a band of tissue that connects the femur to the tibia inside the knee joint, becomes torn or worn away. A torn PCL causes pain and instability of the knee.
Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury occurs when the ACL ligament within your knee is torn. Knee-twisting or hyper-extension can lead to ACL tears. This occurs most commonly while playing high-intensity sports that involve a lot of quick, powerful changes in direction. People who play sports like basketball, tennis, volleyball, and soccer are most likely to suffer an ACL knee injury.
From soccer stadiums to downhill race courses around the world, crowds gather to support their favorite athletes. These athletes are among the best—the strongest, the quickest and the most agile. While most viewers will recognize the extraordinary amount of athleticism, they may not recognize the risk to the knee. An injured ACL is one of the most common knee injuries for athletes, especially for soccer players and ski racers.
Although ACL injuries are certainly not unusual outside of athletics, they are one of the most common knee injuries suffered by collegiate and high school athletes. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that around 200,000 ACL injuries occur annually.
The most common injury is a non-contact pivoting injury, which usually involves a rapid deceleration, such as landing from a jump or a cutting-type movement. This type of movement applies particularly to soccer, basketball players and skiers, who make quick twists and pivots in fast-paced games. For sports like long-distance running, ACL injuries are possible but may be less of a risk because of the absence of certain movements that place added stress on the ligament. Less common is a contact ACL tear. A contact ACL injury typically involves a blow to the back of the knee, which usually results in additional injuries to the knee. Contact ACL injuries are more common in sports such as football, soccer, and rugby.
ACL Injuries in Women
For reasons that are not fully understood, ACL tears are much more common in women than in men. An estimated 100,000 female collegiate athletes suffer ACL tears annually. Post-adolescent female soccer players are two to eight times more likely to seriously injure their ACLs during practice or games. There are a number of anatomical and physiological differences that may predispose women to have their knees internally rotated and placing them at a higher risk of ACL injury. Some of those risks include increased flexibility in the knee and differences in muscle strength ratios and different jumping mechanics.
Diagnosing an ACL Injury
ACL tears can generally be recognized by hearing or feeling a pop, followed immediately by swelling, difficulty with weight bearing, decreased range of motion and pain along the joint line.
It is important to be evaluated following a knee injury to make sure there are no associated injuries, such as a fracture. A doctor’s examination with an X-ray will determine if any fractures or dislocations have occurred. The physical examination remains the most important aspect of the evaluation to assess for associated injuries. The doctor may also obtain an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and to evaluate the extent of the damage to other structures in the knee.
Preventing ACL Injuries
ACL injury prevention is gaining popularity throughout the country. These programs are typically twice a week for six weeks and focus on high-intensity plyometrics, agility drills, pivoting and landing, and they are aimed at athletes of all levels, from high school to professional sports. These programs may be especially important for the skeletally immature female athletes. An ACL tear can be a difficult, painful injury—but with the right information and a trained, skilled orthopedic surgeon, it doesn’t have to be an injury that keeps you off your feet and out of the game for long.
See a Specialist
To learn more about treatments for a torn anterior or posterior cruciate ligaments, please request an appointment online, or call 888-660-2663.
Once you have scheduled your appointment with one of our knee doctors, please use the link below to obtain our new patient forms and browse through our tips and preparation suggestions for your appointment.
“I had struggled with a damaged ACL for many years with symptoms going from occasional to not being able to walk, climb stairs, get in and out of a vehicle, or do recreational walking or golfing without debilitating pain. Dr. Wallace performed reconstructive knee surgery in 2011. I am so pleased with the outcome as I am now able to do all of my daily routine and recreational activities without pain or symptoms. Thank you, Dr. Wallace!” — Jan S.
“After injuring my left knee, I was referred to Dr. Anderson by a friend. Dr. Anderson worked me in very quickly, spent a good amount of time with my wife and I, explaining the diagnosis and going through my MRI. In an effort to get me back to work as quickly as possible, he again worked me into his schedule very quickly. I had surgery where my ACL was replaced along with stitching two tears in my meniscus. My surgery went great. Dr. Anderson spent time before surgery, going over details and putting me at ease. He also went over the surgery details, (with photos) with my wife and son after. He then came in to check on me before I was discharged. Dr. Anderson is a skilled surgeon with an excellent bedside manner. The nurses and staff were also amazing! We are very pleased and thankful!” — Rusty J.
“I had a total ACL replacement. I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Wallace as my doctor. Dr. Wallace is very kind, knowledgeable and gives the facts straight up. From the start, my experience with everyone, the office staff, nurses, surgical team, (Anthony) PA and Dr. Wallace has been the best. I can not say enough about the surgical team for sure... I was a bit of a basket case before the surgery and the whole team at the surgery center helped me so much through the process, my husband was very pleased as well. Not that I ever want surgery again but this is the place I would go and tell EVERYONE and ANYONE to go see Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists. I'm not able to thank everyone at NWOS for being so kind and making this a process that anyone would recover from by leaps and bounds, young and old. Listen to your doctor and do your exercises!!!” — Cindy W.
“Having torn my ACL skiing, Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists made me feel comfortable and welcome. I was able to fully understand what was wrong and what was going to happen. All of my questions were answered to the best of their ability without ever being talked down to. Everyone I have seen has been very friendly and comforting. Not being able to go back to what I was doing before has been hard, but the recovery process has been going well. I will be back on my feet and off my crutches soon.” — Tammra S.