ACL: Anterior Cruciate Ligament – Lina Englund, Physiotherapist

An ACL injury is what took your buddy out last year and if you are an athlete or weekend warrior you are probably just waiting for yours. People with an injured knee often ask me fairly desperately “Is it my ACL, is it my ACL?!?”. Desperation granted since an ACL injury is one of the most severe injuries of the knee. It causes prolonged absence from sport and there are often additionally damaged structures, such as the medial collateral ligament, the meniscus and the articular cartilage. You are better off avoiding the injury, but people live happily and actively with a reconstructed or conservatively treated ACL, so no need to dig your grave just yet!


The ACL is one of 4 major ligaments in your knee and it stabilizes the knee and measures knee strain to recruit muscles for stability to prevent a forward movement of the tibia in relation to the femur and to control rotational movement. When the ligament is ruptured, the muscles do not know when to stabilize and protect the knee, and you can consequently fall over.

Cause of injury

The most common cause of injury is landing from a jump, pivoting or sudden deceleration and change of direction.


Surgery is often recommended for active people, but many people decide to forego surgery and instead retrain the muscles and use a brace. Read surgery vs. conservative treatment for ACL tears to get further information.


After an ACL reconstruction it takes about 3-6 months to regain full function of the knee and, depending on the sport, about 6-12 months to return to action. If you choose to skip surgery you can expect a rehabilitation period of at least 3 months, depending on the level of function that you want to get back to.


After you hurt your knee real bad you want to apply RICEdo no HARM and look out for these trouble signs:

  • Locking
  • A knee buckling feeling (especially with pain)
  • Inability to weight bare
  • Severe swelling that does not come down with ice or rest
  • Inability to straighten or bend the knee fully

If you notice any of the above, immediately contact your health professional.

Take home message: Your best bet is to avoid ACL injuries all together and researchers suggest that there are ways to prevent them.

Keep reading for more info about ACL reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation and prevention.


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