Updated April 03, 2014
An ACL tear is most often a sports-related injury. ACL tears can also occur during rough play, mover vehicle collisions, falls, and work-related injuries. About 80% of sports-related ACL tears are "non-contact" injuries. This means that the injury occurs without the contact of another athlete, such as a tackle in football. Most often ACL tears occur when pivoting or landing from a jump. The knee gives-out from under the athlete when the ACL is torn.
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The diagnosis of an ACL tear is made by several methods. Patients who have an ACL tear often have sustained an injury to the knee. The injury is often sports-related. They may have felt a "pop" in their knee, and the knee usually gives-out from under them.
ACL tears cause knee swelling and pain. On examination, your doctor can look for signs of instability of the knee. These special tests place stress on the ACL, and can detect a torn ligament.
An MRI may also be used to determine if the ligament is torn, and also to look for signs of any associated injuries in the knee.
ACL tears do not necessarily require surgery. There are several important factors to consider before undergoing ACL surgery. First, do you regularly perform activities that normally require a functional ACL? Second, do you experience knee instability? If you don't do sports that require an ACL, and you don't have an unstable knee, then you may not need ACL surgery.
The is also a debate about how to treat a partial ACL tear. If the ACL is not completely torn, then ACL reconstruction surgery may not be necessary.
Many patients with an ACL tear start to feel better within a few weeks of the injury. These individuals may feel as though their knee is normal again, but the problems with instability may persist.
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