≡ Menu

You hear a “popping” sound coming from your knee and it immediately starts to hurt. Within a few minutes your knee is swollen and it hurts to walk on it.

You think you might have hurt your anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”), so the first thing to do is probably go to a sports therapist or doctor who has experience in dealing with sports related injuries, and verify that you do in fact have an ACL injury.

The knee is a very complex joint, so it’s possible that the injury is something else, even if some of the symptoms would otherwise just an ACL tear.
Assuming you do have an injury, what do you do now?

The next step is to determine how serious of an injury you have. ACL injuries can range from very small tears in the ACL, to complete tears or detachment from the upper or lower ACL terminus.

Depending on the nature of the injury you’re dealing with, your healing and rehabilitation process can vary greatly. Your rehabilitation must be properly matched to the scope of your injury.

If you have a minor ACL injury, you should be able to heal yourself following a standard “RICE” treatment protocol, meaning that you:

Rest your knee and not engage in any strenuous training activity;

Ice your knee several times a day to reduce any swelling that may still exist;

Compression therapy for the entire knee joint; and

Elevating the knee to further help reduce swelling.

More I have an ACL Injury – Whats Next? Details

If your ACL injury is more serious, then you might be forced to undergo ACL repair or reconstructive surgery. After surgery, you can expect a significantly longer recovery period, and won’t be able to get by with just RICE treatment.

Instead you’ll probably need to undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program.  In order to manage and follow a rehabilitation program you’ll need to seek professional assistance.

Your rehabilitation program might take up to a year, depending on the severity of your injury. A standard rehabilitation program will begin roughly a week or two after surgery.

The first stage will be working on your knee’s range of motion. Surgery will create scar tissue that needs to be broken down; otherwise it can be an additional hurdle to full recovery.

Increasingly harder and more stressful activities will be added to your rehabilitation program over time. Your own perception of your knee’s strength isn’t a reliable indicator of where you are in the rehabilitation progression.

An experienced physical therapist knows how to evaluate the strength and health of a reconstructed knee, and how to adjust your rehabilitation program to match your progression.

Going too fast in your rehabilitation is a serious threat to be guarded against. Putting too much stress on your knee before it’s adequately recovered can set your rehabilitation schedule back weeks or even months.

The goal of rehabilitation is to get yourself back to your former levels of training – rather than simply get through the rehabilitation itself – and using the services of a professional therapist can help you achieve this goal.


Getting an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury is something that’s dreaded and feared by just about every competitive athlete.

For all its ability to withstand significant forces and translate the body’s powerful muscular energy into motion, the knee can in some ways be a relatively delicate joint.

A twisting force applied at just the wrong angle can cause significant damage to the ACL and other underlying structures of the knee.

If you do have an ACL injury, then you’ll be forced off your current training schedule. Depending on the nature of the ACL injury, and the type of treatment you need to undergo, your ACL injury recovery time may range anywhere from a few weeks to up to a year.

Because ACL injuries can range from relatively minor to very severe, it’s important to make sure that you consult with a doctor or a sports therapy expert in order to get an accurate diagnosis of your injury, and to make sure that you’re taking the proper steps to rehabilitate your ACL and get yourself back to your normal training load.

Minor tears to the ACL may only involve a recovery time of a few weeks (or perhaps a month or two). But if you need to undergo ACL surgery, then you’re in for a much longer process – one that will necessarily include a rehabilitation program.

You will begin with very small range of motion exercises in the first week or two after surgery. The first goal is getting to the point of being able to fully extend your leg.

In fact, this will be a significant point of reference throughout the rehabilitation process; how easily are you able to fully extend your leg? There will be scar tissue that builds up around the site of the surgery, and properly breaking up this scar tissue is a key part of recovery.

Within the next few weeks of rehabilitation you’ll likely begin some type of gentle strengthening and aerobic work. Even slow walking or cycling on a stationary bike will go a long way toward rehabilitating your ACL and helping your recover. One to two months after surgery you’ll probably begin incorporating balance drills into your rehabilitation work.

ACL Injury Recovery – Be Prepared To Work Hard

Getting yourself back to your previous level of athletic performance involves more than just building up your strength; you’ll also need to get your balance and form back to its previous levels.

Beginning approximately two to three months after surgery you’ll begin to ease back into sports specific work.

Working with a professional therapist is absolutely essential throughout rehabilitation but especially at this point because your knee might feel like it’s completely healed, but it won’t be strong enough to return to a full workload.

You’ll probably want to go faster with your recovery, so having expert objective advice and feedback can prevent you from doing too much too soon.

By the same token, progressing too slowly can be a problem too.

Going too slowly with your ACL injury recovery program can allow too much scar tissue to build up, and make it difficult to restore your full range of motion.

Find yourself a physical therapy expert to work with and you’ll be sure to get back to your prior performance levels as soon as is safely prudent.


Getting an injury to an anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”) in either one of your knees can be devastating to your athletic training program. With even a small tear to your ACL, you might find yourself unable to train or compete for months. Your knees are a particularly vulnerable part of the body that’s susceptible to injury because they need to handle extreme forces during training and competition. Thankfully, there are a number of different techniques you can use to strengthen the areas around your ACL and reduce the likelihood of injury. Because the ACL is a ligament, which can’t itself be strengthened, our focus is on the muscles that surround and stabilize the knee joint.

  • First, you should strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. These help to keep your knee joint stable when it experiences a sudden force that could potentially be damaging, such as landing on the ground after a jump, or trying to make a quick change in direction. When your hamstrings and quadriceps muscles can help absorb and translate these forces, your ACL won’t have to. Female athletes are statistically much more likely to experience ACL injuries, so it’s especially important that they make sure to include these types of strengthening exercises in their workout routines.
  • You should also be working to improve your overall fitness and conditioning, and avoid focusing exclusively on the movements and techniques of your sport. Safe training exercises that focus on explosive power – such as plyometrics (aka) jump training – can help teach your body how to instinctively react to sideways and other torquing forces without allowing those potentially damaging forces to translate to your ACL.
  • As part of the “jumping” training like plyometrics, you should practice drills such as jumping off a short box and landing with your knees bent. You should also get into the habit of being crouched down whenever you pivot or turn. These drills help get your body accustomed to being in positions that are safer, and to instinctively keeping good position throughout all movements.

ACL Exercises Is A Must – But Proper Equipment Will Also Help

Besides these ACL exercises, another way to help keep your ACLs safe is to make sure that the equipment and gear you use in training and in competition isn’t putting you at greater risk. It’s important to avoid situations where your foot is in an awkward or fixed position, such as what happens when you wear long cleats in a sport where you can expect hard physical contact, like football. If your lower leg is unable to move while you’re hit, then it’s more likely that your knee (and your ACL) is going to have to deal with the force of the hit. Wear the shortest cleats that still allow you to perform. Along these same lines, make sure your footwear does not have a heel that’s unnecessarily elevated – doing so puts your leg in an unnatural position that makes it more difficult to handle sideways and twisting forces. It’s next to impossible to eliminate all risks of an ACL injury, but if you do the ACL exercises above above you’ll make it less likely that you’ll ever have to deal with one.


It’s a diagnosis that no competitive athlete wants to hear – “you have a torn ACL; you’ll need reconstructive surgery.”

Horrible thoughts flowed through your mind, mostly along the lines of your athletic career being over, or that you’ll never get back to your former level of performance.

Years ago a significant knee injury like a torn ACL might have ended your career.

But today the state of medical procedures and sports therapy means that you have a better chance than ever to get back to your prior athletic levels.

One thing improving the likelihood of a complete recovery is that they are our different types of ACL surgeries available, so that different athletes can weigh the pros and cons of each and decide what’s best for them.

The most common variation in ACL surgery is the type of graft that is used to replace the damaged ACL, and there are three common types of grafts that are used for ACL replacement.

The first technique is to remove approximately 1/3 of the patellar tendon (another tendon that comprises the knee structure) and use that as an ACL replacement.

One advantage of this type of surgery is that the patellar tendon is quite similar to the ACL, so there is less adjustment that the body needs to do.

However, when the section of patellar tendon is removed, a portion of the bone attachment must be removed along with it, which risks causing pain further down the road around the patellar tendon region.

Another common technique is to use tissue from a cadaver donor.

This technique has some adherents because there is no need to remove and repurpose any part of the patient’s other tissues, and because the recovery period is a bit shorter.

However, the donor tissue is generally not as strong as “living” tissue, so the procedure has fallen out of favor amongst athletes in demanding sports.

There are also infection risks that cannot be completely eliminated.

Finally, in ACL surgery may substitute hamstring tendons taken from your own leg.

A pair of tendons are removed and combined to create a structure that resembles your ACL.

Many who have undergone this type of ACL surgery report less pain than patients who have experienced other techniques.

Torn ACL Surgery – You Must Commit To Rehab

However, the healing process of a hamstring tendon graft generally takes longer than other techniques.

Regardless of the type of torn ACL surgery an athlete undergoes, their adherence to a proper rehabilitation program and schedule is very important.

A proper rehabilitation program, undertaken with expert guidance and assistance, will start slowly.

As your new knee becomes stronger, you’ll be asked to handle increasingly strenuous loads and motions. It will not be easy.

There will be times where you’re knee feels perfectly fine, but you’ll be instructed to stick to inappropriate rehabilitation schedule and not try to do too much too quickly.

There will be other times (often in the beginning of the program) where even the simplest exercises and drills, such as working to get full extension on your leg, will be painful.

When you work with a qualified physical therapist, your rehabilitation will help you get back into competition after ACL surgery as quickly as possible.


Competitive athletes are often trying to find the difficult balance between working out and training hard enough that they’ll excel when it comes time to compete, but not working out so intensely or so frequently that they have to cut back on their training because of fatigue or injury.

In fact, even trying to determine whether you are injured – or merely sore – can be difficult.

The distinction between muscle or joint soreness and an actual injury is not simply one of degree; being sore versus being injured will require completely different responses and treatments.

For example, having a sore knee might simply require that you follow a “R.I.C.E.” protocol of:

  • Resting the knee and stopping (or significantly modifying) your workouts;
  • Icing the knee several times a day;
  • Compressing the knee with an elastic bandage or other similar technique;  
  • Elevating the knee whenever possible to facilitate better drainage and reduced swelling.

However, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”) of your knee is going to require a significantly different treatment protocol.

In some cases, an ACL injury will require surgery and an extensive rehabilitation program.

So how do you know whether the discomfort or pain in your knee is just soreness, or is actually an injury requiring professional treatment?

What exactly are the main symptoms of an ACL tear?

It’s important to make sure that you don’t make significant decisions about your athletic safety entirely on your own.

The symptoms list below should be used not to make a final decision on whether or not you have an injury, but to help you decide whether seeking professional help is a good idea.



Symptoms of an ACL Tear – When in doubt, Just go to the Doctor



If there’s ever any doubt about whether you might have injured your ACL, then go to a sports doctor or professional sports therapist.

The symptoms of an ACL tear include:

  • Hearing or feeling a “pop” in your knee, and feeling pain in the knee immediately after the popping sound.
  • Sudden pain that you feel on the outside of your knee, or on the back of your knee.
  • The pain feels like it’s right around the knee itself, and not in the muscles that are above or below the knee.
  • Sudden swelling of the knee, and difficulty moving it.

But keep in mind that the pain and swelling is not necessarily so significant as to prevent you from walking gingerly on your leg; it won’t be comfortable, but many people do hobble around for days or weeks after sustaining an ACL injury, not realizing the extent of the damage to the knee.

If you experience any of these symptoms of an ACL tear, it’s important to visit a sports medicine professional as soon as possible.

ACL injuries can sometimes require surgical repair, and the sooner you get an ACL tear repaired, the sooner you can begin a rehabilitation program.

Coming back from an ACL injury shouldn’t be rushed, so it’s important that you get any significant problems identified as soon as possible.


Surgery is the most common treatment for an ACL injury, but did you know that there are times when a non surgical ACL treatment may actually be better?

This is great news for people who are not crazy about the idea of having surgery.

Keep in mind that this may not be the best course for everyone.

There are only certain situations when it is preferable to not fix the problem with surgery.

If you have suffered an ACL injury and do not want to have surgery, it is worth a shot to check with your doctor and see if you are a candidate for a non surgical treatment.

Patients who have only experienced a partial tear of the anterior cruciate ligament without instability symptoms may be good candidates for a non surgical ACL treatment.

Instead of surgery, these patients would be treated with a progressive physical therapy and rehabilitation plan to improve their symptoms.

This can allow the knee to practically be almost as good as new.

A knee brace may be involved in non surgical treatment, but your doctor will need to make the final decision.

Non Surgical ACL Treatment – You Must Protect Yourself

If you opt to not have surgery, you need to be aware that another injury could happen later so you can protect yourself.

You may also be able to avoid surgery if you have experienced a complete tear of your anterior cruciate ligament, but your knee does not exhibit any suggestions of instability when you take part in low-impact sports.

However, you must be willing to give up high-impact sports as a whole.

This might be an option if you are not a professional athlete or a particularly athletic person in general.

You should be very certain of your decision in this case, because choosing to have surgery later can make the process much more difficult.

Finally, you can opt for non surgical ACL treatment if you do light manual work or are not very active.

In instances like this, it is appropriate to treat an ACL injury with physical therapy and hinged knee braces.

Patients who choose to not receive surgery can also receive education on how to prevent knee instability.

This can be vital to your long term recovery because preventing instability can keep you from experiencing another injury to your anterior cruciate ligament.

Being an informed patient will help you make better choices for yourself and your health over time.


Finding a good ACL injury video online can help you learn quite a bit if you or a loved one has experienced this type of injury.

Videos about the symptoms of a torn anterior cruciate ligament are available online, as well as videos about ACL treatments.

There are also videos that can help you learn how to cope with your injury. However, watching these videos online should not be substituted for seeing your doctor and beginning formal treatment for your injury.

They are meant as a supplement to your treatment and can help make your recovery a little easier.

An ACL injury video might help you decide if you need to go to the doctor about your knee injury.

You can find videos online that will inform you of the symptoms that are associated with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

If you experience constant pain, swelling, and feelings of instability in your knee when you try to walk, see a doctor as soon as possible.

If you do not get proper treatment for an ACL injury it can cause more knee damage later on.

When you watch a video about ACL injury symptoms, do not make the mistake of thinking that it will get better on its own.

ACL Injury Video – Learning Through Watching

You may also find a video that advises you of what to do if you have an injury.

This type of video may advise you to see a sports medicine specialist rather than your family doctor.

Sports medicine specialists are highly experienced in treating an anterior cruciate ligament injury since it can be a common occurrence among athletes.

That is not to say that your family doctor will not be able to handle it, though.

If they are not comfortable treating your injury, they can refer you to a specialist. You should also keep in mind that your insurance may require a referral before they will pay for your visit to a specialist.

It may also be possible to find an ACL injury video that is related to ways you can protect your knees.

Some videos may focus on keeping your quadriceps muscles strong in order to keep your knee from getting injured.

Your hamstring muscles also need to be kept strong to avoid knee injuries, and videos that demonstrate exercises to strengthen this muscle may also be available.

Knee injuries are not always a result of a problem with the knee itself—sometimes it is the result of weak muscles in the knee area.


Seeking treatment for ACL tear injuries is a serious matter.

Learning as much as you can about the standard treatments for an ACL tear is crucial.

When you become an informed patient, you are much more equipped to make the best decisions for yourself and your health.

The treatment process for a torn anterior cruciate ligament is basically always the same, regardless of whether or not you choose to have surgery.

Not everyone is a candidate for treatment without surgery, so you should discuss this option with your doctor if it is something you are interested in.

It may be possible to receive treatment in lieu of surgery if you meet certain criteria.

For example, if you live a sedentary lifestyle, it may not be necessary to have surgery on your anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

Physical therapy, combined with patient education, may be all you need to get your knee back in working shape.

Patient education will teach you how to best avoid knee instability problems.

This can reduce your risk of having another injury later on. Your doctor will be able to decide if you are a suitable candidate for ACL tear treatment without surgery.

If you do opt to have surgery as your main treatment for ACL tear injuries, you can expect to undergo at least four months of physical therapy afterward.

Treatment for ACL Tear – Surgery Is The Preferred Option

Surgery is a preferable option if you are a professional athlete. It is also the treatment of choice if you are an active person and are not willing to give up participating in high-impact sports.

Surgery is generally successful.

The method of ligament repair that is used today involves replacing the ACL with tissue from another part of your knee.

You may need to see a sports medicine specialist to get the treatment you need for your knee as well.

Finally, whether or not you choose surgery, you will need to undergo physical therapy to strengthen your knee.

Your physical therapist will guide you through this process by setting goals and challenging you to meet them by a certain date.

Once you meet a small goal, you will be able to move on to the next stage of your recovery.

After you finish your physical therapy, it is likely that you will need to wear a knee brace, especially if you intend on continuing to play sports.

This will ensure that your knee will be kept in as stable a position as possible.


If you undergo ACL rehab, exercises will most likely be part of your treatment plan.

If you want to take your treatment a step further, you may be able to do some of your ACL rehab exercises in your home even on days that you do not have rehab treatment.

However, you should check with your doctor and your physical therapist before you begin working on your own.

Overdoing it is a very real risk with continuing your therapy on your own, and this could delay your recovery.

Your doctor and physical therapist will be able to provide you with some guidance based on how your injury is healing and your progress with your treatments.

One of the most common exercises for an anterior cruciate ligament injury is a hamstring stretch.

This is a great exercise to start with since you can adjust its difficulty and intensity based on your comfort level and ability.

A straight leg raise may also be a good choice because it works to alleviate knee pain by stretching your muscles as well as strengthening them.

This can also be considered a preventative measure since it can keep potential future knee problems at bay.

If these exercises are not part of your usual treatment, make sure they are appropriate before you try them.

ACL Rehab Exercises – You Must Perform

Heel slides are easy to do at any level of ACL recovery, but just as with anything else, you should make sure your physical therapist has okayed this move just to be on the safe side.

To do a heel slide, sit with your legs stretched out in front of you.

Then, simply bend your injured knee as you slide your heel toward your body.

A half squat can also be effective because it can stretch your knee, as well as strengthen it at the same time.

This is an efficient exercise since it provides more than one benefit!

Finally, swimming is one of the most beneficial ACL rehab exercises that one can do.

Getting in a pool takes the weight off of your knee, and it allows you to exercise it freely.

You can strengthen and stretch your knee with no impact. Heel raises are also a good recovery technique because they can strengthen your entire leg.

To do a heel raise, simply stand up straight and raise up on your toes.

You can hold on to a chair or table for support if you need to.

After you hold your position for ten seconds, slowly lower yourself back down to the floor.


If you need to undergo ACL injury treatment, it is crucial to find a doctor that you trust.

If your family doctor is willing and able to treat you, trust will most likely not be an issue.

However, if your regular doctor thinks you should see a specialist for your injury, you might be a little uncertain as to how to find another doctor that you can trust.

There is no question that choosing a doctor can be a daunting decision.

Fortunately, there are some ways you can find a reliable doctor that you can trust to supervise your treatment.

One of the best ways to find a trustworthy doctor is to ask for recommendations from your friend.

This can be especially beneficial if you have friends who have previously received ACL injury treatment.

Your friends are likely to be honest with you since they care about your safety and well-being.

There is an added advantage of asking your friends for advice about which doctor you should see as well.

Even if they do not know of any doctors that specialize in sports medicine or knee injuries, they can help you look for information, and this could save you some time.

The internet is another way to learn about doctors who provide ACL injury treatment.

ACL Injury Treatment – Why You Need To See A Specialist

More and more doctors’ offices are getting their own websites so potential patients can learn about their practice at their own convenience.

This also undoubtedly cuts down on phone calls from people who are seeking information.

A website for the doctor’s office should have information about any fields they may specialize in, as well as the specific services they offer.

This is also a quick and easy way to find contact information for the doctor you choose.

However, you should keep in mind that not all doctors’ offices have a website.

Finally, if your doctor thinks you should see a specialist, you can ask them for a recommendation.

It is likely that your family doctor knows another doctor who specializes in sports medicine or is skilled in treating ACL injuries.

This might prove to be the best way to choose a doctor to treat your knee, especially if your insurance company requires a referral before you see a specialist.

The important thing is to remember to choose your doctor with care.

An ACL injury is a serious matter, and you want to see the doctor who can provide the most help.