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Painful Acl Injuries

Updated on February 16, 2021
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.


ACL Statistics

Anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) in the knee are very common injuries. There are between 100,00 to 200,00 ACL ruptures annually in the United States, primarily in younger people. In the general population there are approximately 1 in 3500, but due to unreported injuries the number could be greater. The greatest number of these injuries happen while playing football.

A large number of these injuries also occur due to a fall at a high school level girls soccer game, followed by boys football, girls and boys basketball, gymnastics and lacrosse.


Types of ACL Injuries

ACL injuries occur when the anterior cruciate ligament is partially torn, stretched or completely torn. The complete tear is the most common injury.

The symptoms of an ACL injury include:

  • Popping sound during injury
  • Pain
  • Knee instability
  • Swelling of the knee within two hours

Additional structural damage occurs approximately 50% of the time, which includes ligaments, cartilage or in the meniscus. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is often used for the diagnosis, but an ultrasound or x-ray may also be used. A physical exam will reveal tenderness, a reduced range of motion and looseness in the knee joint. This physical exam may be adequate for a diagnosis.

ACL injuries tend to happen with a rapid change in direction, a sudden stop, direct knee contact or landing too hard after a jump. It is much more common in athletes. The injuries happen in American football, alpine skiing and basketball to adults and teenagers.

ACL Injuries | Q&A with Dr. Jay Lee

Treatment for ACL Injury

For care at home the Mayo Clinic suggests using the RICE mode, which means:

  • Rest - limit weight bearing
  • Ice - use ice for twenty minutes every two hours
  • Compression - use an elastic bandage or compression wrap around your knee
  • Elevate - Lie down with the knee elevated on a pillow

People with an ACL tear have a 30% chance of tearing it a second time or tearing the other knee within two years. Therefore, doctors are using a patient’s own biologics, which means their cells, blood components, growth factors and other natural substances to promote healing. According to the Cleveland Clinic this will promote healing, plus it decreases inflammation. This is a new technique called a bridge-enhanced ACL repair (BEAR). Their hope is an improved long-term result.

Surgery may be required if:

  • More than one ligament or the meniscus is injured
  • The injury is causing your knee to buckle during your normal everyday activities
  • You are a very active athlete and want to continue your sport

The surgeon will remove and replace your damaged ligament with a tendon segment from a similar tissue, which is called a graph. This would be a ligament that connects the muscle to the bone. The surgeon uses a piece of tendon from another area of your knee or one from a deceased donor.

Rehabilitative therapy will be useful following the treatment for an ACL tear. There is not a set timeframe for athletes to return to play. Before a person returns to their sport it is important to check the knee for stability, strength and movement patterns. A longer recovery time helps prevent a re-injury.


ACL Injury Prevention

The best way to prevent this injury is by core strengthening and neuromuscular training. Neuromuscular training is often done with a professional trainer, which is recognized by the American Medical Association. The most qualified trainers belong to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA).

ACL Rehab Phase 1 Exercises


Professional and teenage athletes can help prevent ACL injuries or any injury by strengthening exercises and with a great deal of training. Improving your core strength is also helpful. A professional athlete may benefit greatly by using a NATA trainer.

Fortunately there are new treatments for the injuries that may provide a better long term result. It still may take up to one year for the knee to heal. Physical therapists and doctors can perform tests to assess the stability of the knee, the strength and the general readiness for them to return to their sports activities.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 months ago from Sunny Florida

    I guess we agree, as we so often do, Maria. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    Love and hugs, Maria.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    11 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Strengthening exercises and core training seem to be key in the hopes of preventing ACL injuries.

    Like you, I am a firm believer in the R.I.S.E. method of treatment.

    Love and thanks,


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa,

    I was surprised to see that everything was connected also. I found that in my research. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image


    11 months ago from Ohio

    This was very informative! I was surprised to learn that even concerning the knees, core strength is important. It just reaffirms the idea that everything is connected. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora,

    It must be frustrating if you get a complete tear while waiting for the tendon to heal. I know it is painful. I appreciate your comments. Be safe and healthy.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    11 months ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for these details about ACL injuries. It seems that the pain of waiting for it to heal could be as bothersome as the pain when it happens. Thanks for including information on preventing it.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rajan,

    Your cocmments are appreciated, as always.

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 

    11 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

    Thanks for sharing detailed information on ACL injuries and its prevention.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika,

    It sure sounds like you had a painful knee injury. It may have been an ACL tear. I am glad you fully recovered. I appreciate your nice comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy,

    I don't like the thought of that injury either as it is quite painful. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Abby,

    I hope your son has fully recovered. Thank you for the comments.

  • Abby Slutsky profile image

    Abby Slutsky 

    12 months ago from America

    My son has a meniscus injury from sports. This was a helpful article.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    12 months ago from Houston, Texas

    The recovery time is certainly long for ACL injuries. It seems to be a common type of injury and is quite painful. Ouch! I hate even the thought of it.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    12 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    I had a knee injury it was one of the worst pain I experienced. A torn ligament and I couldn't walk normally for tow weeks. After physio therapy I felt better. Walking healed my knee and I feel great to be able to walk without pain. Thank you for an informative and well researched hub on t his type of knee injury. Rugby is one of the top sports with many injuries.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish,

    It is definitely a painful injury, and I would not want to see it happen either. I apprecite your comments. Have a good weekend, Flourish.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz,

    I appreciate your comments. Have a great weekend.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna,

    I should have listed rugby as that is sure a game where you could get an ACL injury. Thanks so much for your comments. Have a great weekend, Lorna.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    12 months ago

    An excellent article Pamela full of useful information and advice. I come from a family of Rugby players who at some time or another have had this type of injury. It seems to go with the territory. Thank you for sharing this wealth of information.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    12 months ago from UK

    This is a very informative, well-presented and interesting article. In the UK, I have often heard of football players picking up these injuries, but I have not really understood the full implications.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    12 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This can be an unpleasant and difficult injury. I was glad to read that new treatments are available. Thanks again for sharing the information, Pamela.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    12 months ago from USA

    Oh, dear, Pamela! The title alone made me weak as I have been present at a teen soccer game when there was an ACL injury. Oww. You provide an excellent article here. I hope I never witness another.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rosina,

    You always write such a nice comment and I appreciate it. This one is no exception. I hope this will be good information for your relatives.

  • surovi99 profile image

    Rosina S Khan 

    12 months ago

    This is a great and informative article about ACL injuries that can happen to young people during a fall in sports activities. While it has never happened to me during my much younger years, I think it is a good article for my young nephew and niece and other young relatives. Thank you, Pamela, for your wonderful contribution.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric,

    I am glad this article increased Gabe's and your knowledge about this type of injury. Thank you so much for your comments.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ann,

    This really is a difficult injury. I am glad you have not experienced this yourself. I have not either, but I have sure had the back problems. None of these are easy.

    I appreciate you reading and posting such very nice comments. Have a very nice weekend.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    12 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill,

    I am glad your daughter had a full recovery. This cn really be a tough injury. I appreciate your comments as always, Bill. Have a good weekend.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    12 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Fantastic I pulled this up as the boy came in. We discussed posterior and anterior and hyper and hypo extensions and prevention. So I cannot say if this article helped anyone else's understanding. Just ours.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    12 months ago from SW England

    They say that knee and back injuries are the worst as far as healing time is concerned. Fortunately I've never had either but I know people who have. It must be excruciating.

    Thanks for all this valuable information. I recognise that you have extensive knowledge. Added to your extensive research and presentation with diagrams, this is a superb article. You never disappoint, Pamela!

    I hope you and yours are keeping safe and well.


  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    12 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Our daughter had this happen her freshman year of college playing soccer. It was a long rehab. Thankfully she has full range of motion now, but it was a lot of work to get here. :)

    Have a fabulous weekend, my friend.


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