The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects your thigh bone to your shin bone at your knee joint. Together with the posterior cruciate ligaments, these powerful bands of tissue stabilise your knee and control the back and forth motion of your knee.
There are three types of ACL injury:
Other types of knee ligament injuries include:
ACL injury is a very common knee injury. If you play certain sports, such as football and basketball, you’re at a higher risk of knee ligament damage. Women are more prone to ACL injury.
ACL injury can be the result of:
ACL injury can result in your knee losing its stability and full range of movement, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks or play certain sports.
Non-surgical treatment may provide your knee with the stability and mobility you require. Alternatively, your consultant may recommend reconstruction surgery to rebuild a torn ACL.
The first signs of a torn ligament in your knee include:
Other symptoms include:
You should see your GP if you suspect a knee ligament injury to avoid further damage.
Your GP will ask how you damaged your knee and how it feels. Following an examination, your GP may refer you for tests, perhaps an ultrasound scan or MRI scan. This should reveal any damage to your ligaments and, if required, your GP will refer you to an orthopaedic consultant.
You can help reduce the knee pain and swelling of an ACL sprain by:
If you have a partial or complete ACL tear, your doctor will advise you about non-surgical and surgical treatments.
If you have a torn ligament in your knee and don’t participate in physically-demanding sports, your doctor may suggest non-surgical treatments. These include:
If you have an ACL tear and participate in physically demanding sports, have an active lifestyle and are in good health, your consultant may recommend ACL reconstruction.
Highly-specialist ACL surgery uses knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) to rebuild your ACL, usually using part of a tendon. Following ACL reconstruction and a course of physiotherapy, you should be able to return to your chosen sport within 12 months.