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Understanding ACL Injuries

With the evolution of technology and instant replay, traumatic knee injuries are more routinely visualized in sports. ACL injuries are pretty easy to spot and are at the forefront of nearly every athletes mind who experiences a knee injury.

Insert Willis McGahee, Adrian Peterson or Joe Burrow video clips here_____I will spare you. 🤢 But for those who can't resist ....

Ok, that's enough for me :)

As you can see, it doesn’t take a medical expert to know what a serious knee injury looks like. Just about every weekend - whether you watch NCAA football or the NFL, you’ll see a player go down with a suspected ACL tear. The diagnosis, which is usually confirmed with an MRI - typically means the end of the season for that athlete.

What many of you don’t know is the importance of that ligament, why it takes so darn long for these athletes to get back onto the field, and how many athletes actually fail to regain a “normal” return to sport.

Here are a few things you may have wondered about in the past:

What is the ACL and what does it do?

To briefly summarize the anatomy and function of the ACL, one should know that the ACL is a band of connective tissue, that crosses another ligament in the knee (PCL) to help connect the upper leg bone (femur) and one of the lower leg bones (tibia). The ACL which runs from posterior to anterior, is rightfully named the Anterior (front) Cruciate (to cross) Ligament. The ACL resists anterior shear forces on the tibia, meaning it basically restricts the amount the tibia can shift forward with deceleration, jumping or cutting type of movements. Speaking of these movements, they are some of the most common mechanisms of injury for an ACL tear. 🤓

What are the ways someone can tear their ACL?

We most commonly see ACL injuries in sports that require sudden stopping, deceleration or change of direction. 👟💨 Many ACL injuries are often "non-contact" but as you can see above, contact ACL tears often occur in sports like football.

What sports make me “More at risk for an ACL tear?”

ACL tears typically occur with sports requiring frequent movements noted above (sudden stopping, deceleration or change of direction).

ACL tears are most commonly seen with football, soccer, and basketball athletes. 🏈⚽️🏀

Will ACL tears heal themself?

In short, no. The poor blood supply to the ACL makes it difficult for healing to occur on its own. 🩸

Do other injuries often occur with an ACL tear?

The more nauseating the injury looks, the more likely It is to have concomitant injuries. Some of the other injuries that are often associated with an ACL tear are things like a meniscus tear, articular cartilage damage, or a MCL or PCL tear. Each of these concomitant injuries can certainly lengthen the recovery process, but at the end of the day the ACL recovery timeline/precautions usually take precedence.

If you know someone who’s had to deal with an ACL injury, hopefully this information will give you a much better understanding of these injuries. Future ACL blog posts will cover conservative and surgical interventions , as well as expected rehabilitation timelines.

As always, please be sure to like, comment, or share if this information resonates with you.

Stay healthy,


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