Since I have been doing a lot of articles about injuries I thought it was time to talk about this very common one – the ACL tear.
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is an injury to the knee commonly affecting soccer players, basketball players, skiers, gymnasts, and other athletes.Most ACL tears are the result of non-contact injuries; where others are in fact the result of direct contact (player-to-player, player-to-object). Also – this injury most commonly affects women, in fact women are 4-6 times more likely than men to experience an ACL tear in their lifetime.
What is an ACL Tear?
The ACL is one of the major ligaments connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone.
A tear can happen if you:
– Stop suddenly while running
– Twist your knee while keeping your foot planted on the ground
– Jump and land on an extended (straightened) knee
– Suddenly shift your weight from one leg to the other
– Stretch the knee farther than you should
– Experience a direct hit to the knee
How Does it Feel?
When you tear the ACL you will feel a sharp intense pain or hear a loud “pop” or snap. Chances are that you will not be able to walk on the injured leg because you can’t support your weight through your knee joint. Also, the knee will usually swell anywhere from minutes to a few hours after. Another common thing is the feeling that your knee “gives way” when you are walking or putting weight on it.
How Is It Diagnosed?
If you see your physical therapist first he/she will conduct an evaluation, and will ask you the following:
– Have you felt pain or heard a pop when you jumped, stopped quickly when running, turned your leg with your foot on the ground, or stretched your knee farther than usual?
– Have you recently had a direct hit to the leg while your foot was planted firmly on the ground?
– Did you notice severe swelling around the knee in the first 2-3 hours following the injury?
– Did you feel your knee buckling or give way when you tried to get up from a chair, walk up and down stairs, or turn while walking?
Your physical therapist also will perform tests to help determine whether you have an ACL tear. One of the tests is when the therapist bends your knee and gently pulls on the lower leg – it is called the “anterior drawer” test or the “Lachman” test. Your therapist might also use the “pivot shift” test which is when he/she gently bends and twists your knee at the same time. Keep in mind that during any tests you may feel some discomfort or instability, but don’t worry – it’s completely normal.
So – that is part one of my two part series on ACL tears. I will remind you that if you think you have suffered an ACL tear it is important to get in and see your physical therapist as soon as possible. These are serious injuries that often require surgery, so the sooner you are checked out the sooner you will be on the road to recovery.
If you don’t currently have a physical therapist and are worried please give us a call – we would be more than happy to help. Do not hesitate to give us a call (201-585-7300), or fill out our contact us form online.