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.