Anterior cruciate ligament or ACL tears are injuries that occur on the inside of the knee joint. The injury is often seen in sports that involve knee twisting or force rotation and is also common in older adults.
Treatment for ACL tears requires special consideration depending on the grade of the injury (one, two, three) and the person’s age. First aid intervention is crucial to stabilise the condition until advanced help becomes available.
What Are ACL Tears?
An ACL tear is a common sports injury that affects the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee.
The injury occurs when the ACL stretches too much – it can be partial through a certain part or complete, which is torn all the way through the ACL.
A torn ACL happens most in sporting activities that include turning, cutting, and pivoting movements. These are often present in skiing, soccer, football, basketball, and tennis, which makes these activities the main causes of ACL tears.
Many will hear or feel a “pop” in the knee when an ACL injury occurs. Immediate pain and swelling can develop at the time of injury. The extent of swelling can be limited if the knee receives immediate care within the first several hours of the injury.
On average, women are twice likely to suffer from a torn ACL than men. Teenagers are also getting these injuries, as more of them are involved in organised sports.
Signs And Symptoms
At the time of the injury, a ‘pop’ or ‘snap’ can be heard by the person, or they may feel like the knee has given up.
Aside from that, other symptoms of ACL tears include:
- Sudden, acute pain in the site of injury
- Immediate swelling (can also start four to six weeks after the injury happens)
- Loss of range of motion in the knee
- Unstable knees or feeling of discomfort when walking
Treatment For ACL Tears
Both surgical and non-surgical treatment options may be used to treat ACL tears. Although surgery is sometimes necessary, not everyone who attains this injury is a candidate for that option.
First aid is an effective and non-surgical treatment for ACL tears. Consider doing the RICE first aid method for minor knee injuries.
Avoid activities that can cause knee pain, such as running or walking for long periods. These should be avoided until symptoms are relieved.
Apply an ice pack to the site of injury to help reduce pain and swelling. Do this several times throughout the day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
Manage swelling by wearing a tight, elastic bandage around the affected knee.
Keep the knee supported above the waist level to help with the pain and swelling.
If you or others are experiencing symptoms of ACL tears after an injury, seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Active individuals who play sports or those who experience knee instability that affect their daily lives may be required to do other non-surgical treatment. These include taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or wearing a knee brace.
For knee pain that does not go away, it is recommended to work with a physical therapist. These professionals can help restore your knee range of motion and knee strength. Take note that the recovery time will vary for each individual and can take anywhere from a few months to months.
For more information on ACL tears and treatment for sport-related injuries, consider getting a first aid course.