The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the major ligaments of the knee that is in the middle of the knee and runs from the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). It prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. Together with posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) it provides rotational stability to the knee.
Types of ACL Sprain
Your ACL may get sprained or injured while twisting, bending or quickly changing direction. The sprain is classified into three degrees:
- First-degree sprain: Ligament fibres may be injured, but with no significant tear and no loss of integrity
- Second-degree sprain: Not all ligament fibres are torn. Ligament remains intact overall
- Third-degree sprain: Complete rupture of ligament and loss of overall integrity
Causes of ACL Sprain
ACL sprains occur due to sudden impact from the outside of your knee, most commonly while playing sports such as rugby and football. Rarely, the ACL can get injured when the knee gets twisted or following a quick change in direction.
Symptoms of ACL Sprain
The symptoms of ACL sprain include:
- Tenderness and pain in the inner side of the knee
- Swelling and bruising
- Stiffness of knee
- Difficulty walking
- Bleeding and inflow of fluid into the joint
Diagnosis of ACL Sprain
Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. Physical examination will be performed where your doctor checks the range-of-movement of your legs. An X-ray or MRI scan may be ordered to determine soft tissue injury, confirm the extent of damage, and assess the integrity of your knee.
Treatment for ACL Sprain
ACL sprains are commonly treated by conservative procedures. You will be advised to take adequate rest and not to strain yourself. An ice pack may be applied for 10 to 20 minutes for every 1 to 2 hours to reduce swelling. You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce the pain and swelling. Your doctor may recommend crutches and braces to support, protect and limit movement in your knee. Rehabilitation procedures and exercises for ACL sprains generally focus on regaining knee range-of-motion, muscle control and strength, and reduce swelling. Surgery is performed very rarely, in case of significant third-degree ligament injury.
Based on your extent of damage, your doctor will suggest the best possible treatment option to treat your ACL sprain.