ACL Injury Treatment

ACL injury is unfortunately becoming a much more common injury in the world of sports. If you have suffered a torn acl, it may seem very overwhelming at first.

I have good news though... with the treatment methods today, the possibility of returning to your sport is very good. Make that great. It may not seem like it now, but hang in there. You are not alone, and it will get better.

After an acl injury, the most important thing you can do is to control your swelling and inflammation. R.I.C.E is the best way to do this. Rest, ice compression, and elevation. These are your new best friends.

Applying ice immediately following injury, as well as resting the injured leg, and using some type of compression wrap to help control swelling will make your knee feel better, and help to maintain knee motion. Ice and compression should be continued as long as you have swelling within your knee.

If you think that you may have suffered an ACL injury, you should see your primary care physician or certified athletic trainer as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and assessment. These professionals are trained to determine the actual injury and its severity, and get you on the right track to recovery.

Symptoms of a Torn ACL


Your physician or athletic trainer will perform clinical tests to help determine the integrity of the ACL. These tests, along with your description of how the injury occurred, how fast it swelled, as well as your other signs and symptoms will lead them to determining your exact injury.

Your physician may recommend an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in order to be certain about the diagnosis, and other possible areas of injury such as the meniscus.

The MRI is a test that actually takes a picture of the soft tissues of the body. Todays MRI's are very accurate, and can help to provide a correct diagnosis.

Learn more about the specific symptoms of a torn ACL

Starting ACL Rehabilitation

Once you have seen your physician, possibly had an MRI, and the exact extent of your injury is known, you should be given exercises to work on to help reduce the swelling, increase your range of motion, and work on returning you to normal everyday activities. Ask your physician what you can be doing at home to start getting better.

Some common exercises include quadricep sets, which have you contract your quadriceps with your leg fully extended, usually holding this contraction for several seconds. This helps to return strength to your leg, and to begin a pumping action to move the swelling. This will not be an easy exercise, but it is important to try it.

Straight leg raises, towel slides, and hamstring and calf stretching are also very good exercises to try at this phase of recovery following ACL injury.

After 1-2 weeks following ACL injury, your swelling should be diminishing, and your range of motion returning. You will still feel weakness in your leg, and may have episodes of instability, where simply walking makes you feel like your knee is going to buckle. This is very common, and is a result of the ACL no longer being there to keep the knee stable.

Deciding to Have Surgery

ACL injury is very commonly treated with surgery to reconstruct the ACL. Once torn, the acl is unlikely to heal on its own. This is because the ends of the torn ligament are not usually in close proximation, and therefore, cannot heal back together. Because this ligament plays a vital role in knee stability, the decision to have surgery following ACL injury or to go without is important.

While you may be able to resume normal daily activities following an ACL injury, sports participation is generally limited. This is especially true with sports that require quick changes in direction, such as basketball, football, and soccer. Whether sports participation is a goal or not, you should also consider the big picture and the long term health of your knee when deciding about surgical options for your ACL injury.

Anterior Drawer Test

The knee joint is made up of several ligaments and cartilage that all work together to keep the knee stable. When one of those ligaments (the ACL) is removed, the knee looses some of its stability.

The ACL deficient knee is more prone to abnormal stresses on the meniscus and other ligaments even with everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs. As time goes on, the meniscus begins to degenerate, causing pain and discomfort. Studies have also shown that arthritic changes occur earlier in life with an untreated ACL injury.

These issues, as well as all of the risks of surgery, outcomes, and potential for return to sports should be discussed with your orthopedist or certified athletic trainer. Make sure you ask your physician all of your acl questions.


For most athletes and active people, ACL Reconstruction is a good treatment option following injury to the ACL. With the proper surgery and comprehensive rehabilitation, you can return to an active lifestyle and be able to participate in the activities that you love. However, it is a big decision, and not one that should be taken lightly. Talk with your physician and certified athletic trainer to determine the best course of action for you and your specific situation.

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