Your knee is a complex network of joints, bones, tendons, muscles, and nerves. Three bones come together at your knee joint: the kneecap, shin, and thigh bone. Several ligaments connect them. The main one is called your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. It stabilizes your knee and controls proper movement.
At Next Step Orthopedics, board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Dominique Nickson, has years of experience treating ACL tears. While it is a common sports injury, many movements in everyday life make you vulnerable to this kind of knee injury. In this blog, Dr. Nickson answers some common questions about ACL tears and offers some tips for how to prevent the injury.
What causes an ACL tear?
There are several main movements or causes of an ACL tear, such as:
- A sudden stop
- Pivoting incorrectly
- Changing direction abruptly
- Jumping and landing incorrectly
- Bending the knee backward
- Hyperextending the knee
You can see how these movements most often affect soccer, basketball, tennis, and football players. Still, they’re also at work when you’re exercising, playing with your kids, hiking, or going about your daily routine.
What are the symptoms of an ACL tear?
The main symptom of an ACL tear is sudden pain. Other telltale signs include:
- A popping sound when the injury occurs
- Difficulty extending your knee
- Inability to bear your weight
Your knee will likely be extraordinarily sore and feel like it won’t support you when you walk.
How can an ACL injury be prevented?
The best way to prevent an ACL injury is to keep your knee muscles conditioned and strong so they can support your movements. You can do this with exercises that improve your balance, stability, and core strength. Here are a couple of recommendations:
Strong muscles support and protect your movements. Good strengthening exercises to try are:
- Hamstring curls
You must use proper techniques to get the most from the exercise and keep from further injuring yourself.
Increasing your balance may help you not to twist or pivot unnaturally. Try single toe raise exercises to build up your calf muscles and improve the symmetry between the hamstring muscles and the quadriceps muscles. Physical therapy is also helpful in building up your knee muscles, so they serve you well.