While ACL tears are associated with athletics, they can happen to just about anyone. Age, gender, and activity level are variables that may increase your risk of tearing your ACL. Suddenly stopping or changing directions are among the leading causes of ACL tears, explaining the higher rate of injury in sports like football, soccer, and basketball. If you suffer an ACL tear, it may limit your everyday lifestyle, but it doesn’t require you to put your entire life on hold.

What Is Your ACL?

The ACL or, anterior cruciate ligament, is located at the back of the patella (knee cap), and assists knee rotation and stability.

ACL injuries are divided into three different grades:

  • Grade I: The ligament has suffered sprain, but there is no tear.
  • Grade II: The ligament has suffered more damage than a sprain and is partially torn.
  • Grade III: The ligament has suffered severe damage and is completely torn.

Signs of an ACL Tear

If you hear or feel a pop in your knee during sudden movements, you may have torn your ACL. Usually there will be some swelling, as well. Due to weakness and instability in your knees, you may have trouble walking after tearing your ACL.


Your physician will provide treatment based on the severity of your ACL tear. Immediately following your injury, it is recommended to use R.I.C.E, or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You can expect to wear a brace or use crutches for stability.

Physical Therapy

Depending on your activity level and the severity of your injury, your physician may recommend physical therapy. Your physical therapist will help you restore strength and knee stability. In many cases, patients can return to light sports and activities following physical therapy.


Your ACL tear may require surgery if:

  • You are an athlete
  • Physical therapy did not fully rehabilitate your knee
  • You have multiple ligament tears
  • Your knee is no longer stable

Following surgery, you will work with a physical therapist to help rebuild strength and flexibility in your knee.

Fully recovering from your injury may take up to a year if the tear was severe. It’s important to remain committed to your physical therapy but not overdo it. Returning to activities before you are ready may lead to a reinjury of your ACL.

If you’ve recently suffered a knee injury, give us a call at 615-324-1600.
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