Common Sports Injury- Torn ACL

Caroline Riley

What is the ACL?

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament, or more commonly known as ACL, is one of four ligaments in the knee that connect the upper and lower leg bones. In the knee, the ACL prevents forward movement of the tibia. It also provides roughly 90 percent of stability in the knee joint. ACL tears are almost always related to sports such as soccer, football, basketball, and skiing.
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How Do ACL Tears Happen?

Most ACL tears occur as a result of twisting, hyperextending the leg, or pivoting (all common moves in sports, especially football, basketball, soccer, tennis and skiing.) ACL injury often occurs as a non-contact injury resulting in strains and tears.


Women experience ACL tears more often than men, possibly due to estrogen levels making their joints looser. Therefore, younger women and girls are at greater risk for ACL tears. Also, anatomy and muscle function of the knee is different in women than in men, resulting in a tendency for women to have more knee injuries.

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Symptoms of a Torn ACL

Symptoms of a torn ACL can include:

  • At the moment of injury you may hear a pop or popping sound
  • A very sudden and intense onset of pain
  • Lots of obvious swelling in the affected knee within the first five to six hours
  • Can’t straighten or bend the knee all the way and the knee feels tight
  • Instability in the knee

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Ways to AVOID a Torn ACL

Unfortunately, there is no single exercise can prevent an ACL injury. However, you can give yourself some protection by developing and maintaining strength and endurance in your lower body. To promote stability in the knee, perform closed-chain exercises (for example, leg presses, squats, lunges) as part of your strength-training program. Also, do some cross-training in your cardiovascular workout using the stairclimber, stationary bike, elliptical trainer or ski machine.