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Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of two very strong ligaments that are located inside your knee joint.  Injury to the ligament can often occur during sports during twisting positions, fast deceleration or when you land heavily after a jump with poor control. You may have seen ACL injuries happen on video during sports such as AFL (definitely one for the “Try not to cringe” challenge!). Another way the ligament can be injured is if someone applies a direct force on your knee, placing a stretch on the ACL

What are the symptoms of an ACL injury?

Because of its good blood and nerve supply, most people can usually tell if they have an ACL injury as the symptoms stand out! These include:

  • Immediate and severe pain in the knee with widespread tenderness
  • A large amount of swelling that quickly develops
  • Overall reduced ability to bend and straighten the knee
  • If it is less severe and the patient can walk, they may find the knee gives way when doing so

However, it is possible to have a low-grade or chronic/progressive injury which may present with symptoms that are more subtle

How can a physiotherapist and exercise physiologist help?

After reading articles on the internet, it can be easy to assume you may have an ACL injury. However, there are actually several structures around the knee that could be contributing to your knee pain and swelling

A physiotherapist can reassure or confirm if, indeed, you have an injury to the ACL. If you do, the physiotherapist can assess the severity of the ACL injury and refer you onto a doctor if the tear may need reconstruction surgery. Because the ACL is connected to several other structures in the knee, physiotherapists can also check if any other surrounding structures have been injured. This is to ensure you receive the appropriate rehabilitation so that you can get back to the activities you love while reducing the risk of re-injury

After the injury has healed and the intermediate to advances phase of rehabilitation is reached, exercise physiologists can help you return to sports and higher level activities!


Logerstedt, D.S., Snyder-Mackler, L., Ritter, R.C., Axe, M.J. and Godges, J.J., 2010. Knee stability and movement coordination impairments: knee ligament sprain: clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 40(4), pp.A1-A37.

Paterno, M.V., 2017. Non-operative care of the patient with an ACL-deficient knee. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine, 10(3), pp.322-327.


Please remember that medical information provided by Optimum Health Solutions, without consultation with a health care professional, must be considered as an educational service only and is not a substitute for a medical consultation.

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