The knee is made up of four ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament sits way inside the knee joint. Anterior means front and the ligament is situated in the front of the joint. Cruciate means cross-shaped and that is how the ACL is shaped.
This is the ligament that controls knee stability and prevents the lower part of the leg from moving too far forward. It also keeps the lower leg from twisting too much. This ligament is about as thick as a pencil and very strong.
One of the most common injuries a knee pain doctor Bethesda MD residents trust treats is an ACL knee injury. This occurs when the anterior cruciate is overstretched. This often happens because the knee is twisted in an awkward manner or the knee is bent back too far. These motions can cause some of the ligament fibers to tear. An even more serious injury is when the ligament ruptures, meaning it tears completely.
It is not uncommon for other areas that are around the ACL, such as cartilage or other ligaments, to become damaged when the injury occurs.
ACL injuries can range from sprains to ruptures and – depending on the severity of the injury – can take months for the injury to heal. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
ACL knee injuries frequently happen during sports participation, but approximately 80 percent of those injuries occur from twisting of the knee, not from direct contact with another player. Some of the ways non-contact injuries happen occur are:
- Hyper-extending the knee when bending the wrong way
- Landing awkwardly after jumping
- Stopping suddenly while running
- Twisting the knee quickly, such as when changing direction or pivoting
Contact injuries include usually occur when there is some type of blow to the side of the knee of the victim when their foot is firmly on the ground.
Multiple studies have shown that women are five times more at risk of suffering an ACL knee injury than men. Some of the causes of this higher risk for women include angle of the pelvis, hamstring flexibility, hormone levels, ligament structure, and the size of the ligament.
Symptoms of an ACL Knee Injury
There are some common symptoms that victim will suffer that can indicate an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament:
- Buckling: When the ACL has been injured, there is often a buckling of the knee and give way. There is also an unstable feeling to the area.
- Movement: Victims of ACL usually have very limited movement and have a very hard time straightening the knee.
- Noise: In about half of the injuries, the victim hears a cracking or popping noise when the injury occurs.
- Pain: Victims suffer immediate pain when the ACL has been injured. This pain is worse when the victim attempts to bend the knee or puts any weight on it.
- Swelling: Within six hours of the injury, victims usually suffer extensive swelling of the knee area. If the tear is small, there may not be any swelling. This swelling is caused by the damage the injury has done to the blood vessels inside the knee.
Thank you to our contributors at the Pain Arthritis Relief Center for the above information.