How to Know if You Tore Your ACL

Torn ACL Knee Pain

An ACL injury is usually a sprain or tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This ligament is one of the largest and most important on your knee. A tear usually occurs while playing sports that require jumping, landing or a quick change in direction such as skiing, football, basketball or soccer.

ACL tears also occur when an athlete comes in direct contact with another or the knee can no longer hold their weight. So, how do you know if you have a torn ACL? Here are some of the signs you need to look for:

1. A “Pop” Sound

Those who experience an ACL tear usually hear an audible “pop” when the injury occurs. This sound can be really loud, and even people at the sidelines of a soccer or football game may hear it. The sound is usually followed by an instant shift in the knee joint.

2. An Unstable Knee

Any time an ACL tear occurs, the knee joint becomes unstable. This is because the ACL plays a vital role in stabilizing the joint. If the tear occurs because of a cutting or pivoting movement, the knee may give out when the ACL gets torn.

3. Swelling at the Knee Joint

The knee joint will become swollen after an ACL tear. The swelling can quickly grow large because the knee joint is one of the largest in the body. When the tear occurs, the blood vessels that supply blood to the ligament get ruptured. Then, they fill the entire joint space with blood. When this happens, the joint will become warm and turn red.

4. Pain in the Knee

Virtually all ACL tears are painful, but the intensity of the pain could vary. You may feel very intense pain if the damage around the knee joint is severe. Most of the pain occurs from the sudden rupture of blood vessels and swelling in the joint space.

5. Loss of Range of Motion

It will be very difficult to move the lower section of the leg due to swelling that occurs after the tear. This will result in restricted motion at the joint. In many cases, walking will be difficult, and assistive devices such as a walker, crutches or stick may be required to walk straight.

When to See Your Doctor

You should see seek immediate medical care if you have a knee joint injury or if your child says, “I think I tore my ACL.” Remember the knee joint is quite complex, and all the parts work together to help you walk and maintain your balance.

Typically, you should see a doctor if you notice you have:

  • Difficulty walking or standing on the injured knee
  • Swelling or pain that remains for over 48 hours
  • Trouble supporting your weight on the injured knee
  • An odd appearance on any side of the affected knee

Get Treatment for an Injured Knee Today

If you have a sports injury affecting your knee or you have any symptoms of an ACL tear, give us a call immediately. You can speak to one of our highly skilled orthopedic doctors or come over to OrthoBethesda in person for a thorough examination, diagnosis and treatment.