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ACL Injuries: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments.

Updated: Jun 18, 2019


What is the ACL?



The ACL or the anterior cruciate ligament is a tough fibrous band located in the knee that prevents the excessive forward movement of the shinbone on the thigh bone. The ACL is one of two crossing ligaments located in the centre of the knee, the other being the MCL or medial collateral ligament. Together the ACL and MCL stabilize the knee joint.


ACL Injury Causes

ACL injury is common in athletes that participate in high impact sports such as football, tennis, netball, skiing, basketball, and rugby. ACL injuries are often the result of a sudden change in direction, pivoting, sudden stopping, or jumping. But, there are two main ways you can injure your ACL:


  • Physical contact: The ACL can be sprained or torn when there is a direct blow to the outside part of the knee when the foot is firmly planted on the ground. This accounts for 30% of ACL injuries.


  • Non-contact injuries: This is the most common cause of an ACL injury. It can occur following a quick deceleration, a sudden change in direction, or awkwardly landing on the knee. This accounts for 70% of all ACL injuries and is the is the more common way of injuring your ACL.


ACL Injury Signs and Symptoms


There are common signs and symptoms to look for. Although everybody is different you may have sprained, hurt, damaged, injured, or torn your ACL if you experience any of the following:


  • Hearing a ‘pop’ during the injury

  • Sudden onset of knee pain

  • Immediate swelling

  • Tenderness over the tip of the shin bone

  • Limited knee range of motion

  • A feeling of instability or looseness in the knee

Did you know? Female athletes have 4-8 times greater risk of ACL injury compared to their male counterparts and account for the majority of ACL injuries.


ACL injury Treatments

When the ACL is sprained or torn, it has a tough time stabilizing the knee during movement. Some ACL injuries do require reconstructive surgery, especially for patients who wish to return to playing sports at a competitive level. Sports Therapy can help both pre and post op to ensure a successful recovery.


When surgery is not needed, an effective exercise plan designed for you can rehabilitate your knee back to normal levels of function. Every person is different, but the goal of ACL sports therapy is to increase the range of motion of the knee, strengthen the muscles around the knee, and improve balance. Depending on your unique needs your sports therapist may use any of the following treatments:


  • Manual Therapy including a combination of massage, ultrasound, laser therapy and acupuncture

  • Strengthening and stretching exercises

  • Balance exercises

  • Patient Education

If you think you may have injured your ACL, we recommend seeking an assessment by a qualified sports therapist. For more information please ring Exeter Sports Therapy on 01392 459354.

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