How Do I Treat an ACL Injury?

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An ACL injury is one of the most common causes of a knee injury. ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament is a band of tissue that joins the bones within your knee. It helps in keeping the knee stable. A tear or sprain of this ligament leads to an ACL injury. This happens most commonly during sports that involve sudden movements, jumping and landing such as: basketball, soccer, football, gymnastics, tennis and skiing.

What are the symptoms of an ACL injury?

Symptoms can include:

What are the causes of ACL injury?

ACL injuries usually happen during sports or intense physical activities that can put a lot of stress on the knee, such as:

  • Landing awkwardly after a jump
  • Suddenly changing directions or speed
  • Suddenly stopping
  • Receiving a direct blow on the knee such as during a football tackle
  • Landing flat-footed after a jump
  • Overextension of knee joint

What are the factors that increase the risk of ACL injury?

Risk factors may include:

  • Playing certain sports like football, soccer, basketball and downhill skiing
  • Being female (differences in muscle strength and certain hormones)
  • Wearing ill-fitted footwear
  • Using poorly maintained equipment such as ski bindings
  • Playing on artificial turf because it is harder than grass ground

How is ACL injury treated?

Self Care

Prompt self-care can reduce the pain and swelling after an injury. The RICE method usually helps:


Resting your injured knee helps in healing and relieving pain


Applying ice pack on the affected knee for 15 to 20 minutes, after every two hours. This helps in reducing the inflammation and swelling.


Wrapping a compression bandage around the knee to give support and reduce swelling.


Elevating your knees by using pillows while lying down.

Noninvasive Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment is recommended for those who are not involved in high impact physical activities and those who do not have any additional damage to the knee.


Anti-inflammatory drugs can help in reducing the pain and swelling.


If the pain is severe, the doctor may inject steroids in your knee.

Knee Brace

Wearing a knee brace or splint can give extra support to your knee and help in faster recovery. You may also use crutches to avoid putting weight on your knee.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist will make you do exercises that will strengthen the muscles around your knees. This also helps in regaining the range of motion.

Surgical Treatment

If you do not get relief from the options mentioned above, your ACL has been injured badly, or you are an athlete who participates in high impact sports, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Surgical treatment includes ACL reconstruction using a graft (autograft or allograft). You can discuss with your orthopedic surgeon about the different options of reconstruction depending on your activity level, age and condition of your knee.


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