An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is one of the most common sports injuries our physicians, surgeons and physical therapists see at The Orthopedic Group. According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, there are approximately 150,000 ACL injuries in the United States each year. This injury occurs in both males and females. However, female athletes participating in basketball and soccer are 2 to 8 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts.  

At The Orthopedic Group, we specialize in treating ACL injuries as well as other sports-related injuries. Keep reading to learn more about ACL injuries and learn how to get back to your active lifestyle faster. 

What is Your ACL? 

The three bones that make up the knee joint are the thighbone (femur), the shinbone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella). 

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) runs from the anterior area of the tibia to the medial part of the lateral femoral condyle. It prevents the forward movement of the tibia. The ACL is also responsible for about 90 percent of stability in the knee joint.

How Can You Injure Your ACL? 

More than 70 percent of ACL injuries occur without contact. Non-contact injuries can happen when a person makes sharp changes in movement or abruptly stops. Injuries can also result from contact via a hit or blow directly to the front of the thigh while the leg is planted. 

What Factors Increase the Risk of an ACL Injury?  

Several factors increase your risk of an ACL injury, including:

  • Being female — possibly due to differences in anatomy, muscle strength and hormones
  • Participating in certain sports, such as soccer, football, basketball, gymnastics and downhill skiing
  • Poor conditioning
  • Wearing footwear that doesn’t fit correctly
  • Using poorly maintained sports equipment
  • Playing on artificial turf surfaces 
  • Playing injured

What are the Signs and Symptoms of an ACL Injury? 

The signs and symptoms of an ACL injury can include: 

  • A loud “pop” or a “popping” sensation in the knee
  • Severe pain and inability to continue an activity
  • Rapid swelling
  • Loss of range of motion
  • A feeling of instability or “giving way” when weight bearing on your knee

What is the Treatment for an ACL Injury? 

If you think you might have injured your ACL, applying first-aid immediately can reduce swelling and pain. You should follow the RICE model of self-care at home:

  • Rest: Rest is necessary for healing and limits weight bearing on your knee.
  • Ice: Try to ice your knee at least every two hours for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression: Wrap an elastic bandage or compression wrap around your knee.
  • Elevation: Lie down with your knee propped up on pillows.

If you think you may have injured your ACL, you should seek medical care as soon as possible. Several tests identify the presence of an ACL, which includes the anterior drawer test, Lachman test and lateral pivot shift test. It is crucial for you to get an accurate diagnosis to determine your injury’s severity and get proper treatment. 

Medical treatment includes strengthening the quadriceps muscles and performing exercises to strengthen the lower extremity. If your ACL injury requires surgery, you will be required to wear a locked brace along with crutches for at least one month. You should be aware that physical therapy and rehabilitation require approximately six months.  

The first step of treatment is managing pain and swelling and attempting to regain movement. Once this is achieved, you will move to exercises like mini wall slides and riding a stationary bike. The goal is to be able to bend your knee to 100 degrees. During weeks four through six, you will focus on balancing and working on getting your knee bent to 130 degrees. By weeks six through eight, you will try to achieve a full range of motion while increasing the resistance of workouts at therapy. In weeks eight through ten, the focus of treatment will be on strengthening the muscles. From week ten and onward, you should be able to start jogging and performing some agility drills. Remember, even though the recovery process is long and painful, you should be able to resume a fully active lifestyle.

How Can You Avoid Injuring Your ACL in the Future? 

To avoid injuring your ACL in the future, you should ensure that you exercise and train correctly. Our sports medicine physicians and physical therapists can provide you with assessment, instruction and feedback to help you reduce the risk of an ACL injury. Some ways to reduce the risk of an ACL injury include:

  • Performing exercises that strengthen leg muscles, particularly hamstring exercises, to ensure an overall balance in leg muscle strength
  • Performing exercises to strengthen the core, including the hips, pelvis and lower abdomen
  • Training and activities emphasizing proper technique and knee position when jumping and landing from jumps
  • Training to improve techniques when performing pivoting and cutting movements
  • Wearing footwear and padding that is appropriate for your sport

Relieving ACL Injury Pain | The Orthopedic Group 

For a combined 177 years, patients in southwestern Pennsylvania have chosen our orthopedic doctors at The Orthopedic Group for specialized care in joint reconstruction, orthopedic spine, sports medicine, foot and ankle, pain management and physical therapy. We are a community-driven group of physicians that are invested in the health of our community members.  

If you are suffering from an ACL injury, we would be happy to help — we’ll schedule an appointment and discuss our recommended course of action. Contact us online or give us a call at (724) 379-5802.



ACL Injury

Common Knee Injury More Likely in Women