Is your knee telling you something? Don’t ignore that nagging feeling because it may hint at a more severe injury. One of the most painful injuries you can have is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
As an athlete, you’re likely familiar with the phrase “no pain, no gain.” But that doesn’t mean you should ignore or push through any signs of pain. For example, an injury to your ACL can be especially tricky if it isn’t detected and treated early on.
The ACL is a major stabilising ligament within the knee joint essential for normal knee function and activity levels. Unfortunately, ACL injuries are one of the most common injuries among athletes, often caused by sudden stops or directional changes while playing sports like basketball and soccer.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some common symptoms associated with ACL injuries—what they look like to help prevent further complications in the future.
What is an ACL injury?
An ACL injury is a type of knee injury that occurs when the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is torn or ruptured. The ACL is one of the knee’s major ligaments, which helps stabilise the joint and prevent excessive forward movement of the shin bone (tibia) relative to the thigh bone (femur).
There are several ACL injury causes, like sudden changes in direction or pivoting, and during high-impact activities such as jumping and landing. In addition, athletes participating in sports such as soccer, football, basketball, and skiing are at increased risk of ACL injuries.
ACL injury symptoms
If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve had to deal with a nagging injury or two throughout your career. After all, as much as we may try to take care of our bodies and stay ahead of the game, sometimes injuries can still happen regardless —especially when it comes to serious ones like ACL tears.
ACL injuries can sometimes seem like minor issues, but they can quickly escalate into severe problems and significantly impede your athletic performance. However, understanding this common sports-related injury’s warning signs and risk factors can nip any severe issues in the bud before they cause more damage.
A loud pop or a “popping” sensation in the knee
When the ACL is torn or ruptured, it can result in a sudden and often painful popping sensation in the knee. The popping sound or sensation may occur during injury or shortly after that.
Severe pain and inability to continue an activity
When the ACL is stretched or torn, it can result in significant pain and swelling in the knee. In addition, the knee may feel unstable or give out, making it difficult to walk or bear weight on the affected leg. As a result, it can cause severe pain and an inability to continue the activity.
When an ACL injury occurs, swelling often develops around the knee joint. This swelling is a natural body response to injury and is part of the inflammatory process that occurs when tissues are damaged. Also, inflammation increases blood flow to the affected area, bringing white and other immune cells to the injury site. These cells release chemicals that cause blood vessels to leak fluid, leading to swelling. At the same time, swelling can also compress nerves and other structures in the knee, leading to pain and further inflammation.
Loss of range of motion
Loss of range of motion happens due to three factors — swelling and inflammation, pain and discomfort, and knee instability.
First, swelling and inflammation can develop in the knee joint after an ACL injury, leading to stiffness and decreased range of motion. Swelling can cause the joint to fill with fluid, restricting movement and making it difficult to bend or straighten the knee fully.
Second, pain and discomfort can also limit the range of motion in the knee. Pain can cause muscle guarding, where the muscles around the knee tense up to protect the joint from further damage. This can make it difficult to move the knee through its full range of motion.
Finally, the instability of the knee joint that results from an ACL injury can also lead to loss of range of motion. The ACL helps to stabilise the knee joint and keep it aligned. However, when the ACL is injured, the knee joint can become unstable, making it difficult to move it through its full range of motion.
A feeling of instability or “giving way” with weight bearing
One of the common symptoms of an ACL injury is a feeling of instability or “giving way” with weight bearing. When the ACL is injured, the knee joint can become unstable, which can cause the knee to give way or buckle during weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, or jumping. This feeling of instability can be unpredictable and may occur during previously well-tolerated activities.
ACL injuries can be serious and debilitating. Athletes should know the symptoms and seek medical help if they suspect a tear or strain. Many athletes can return to their sport without lasting damage with an early ACL injury diagnosis and proper rehabilitation. For those who have experienced a more severe tear or strain, various surgical options can be discussed with your doctor for you to return to life before the injury.
While ACL injuries may seem daunting, there is hope for recovery with the proper treatment and determination. There is nothing like soaring down the field once more and feeling confident in your movements again. To know more about ACL injury and how to treat it, book a consultation with A/Professor Andrew Dutton by calling us at (+65) 6836 8000. We would be happy to provide further guidance and support.
A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton Orthopaedic & Sports Clinic Insurance
The A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton Orthopaedic & Sports Clinic offers minimally invasive and surgical treatments for sports-related injuries and orthopaedic conditions.
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