Person Holding Knee After Tearing ACL

Why it’s essential to diagnose anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damage early.

Lots of patients who come to Yorkshire Knee Clinic visit us for a delayed diagnosis, often quite some time after the event that caused their knee pain. Occasionally, they’ll have been misdiagnosed with a knee sprain when the issue is far more serious.

Unfortunately, ACL injuries are rather good at disguising their true nature, and that can present real problems. Return to sport carrying an ACL injury and the knee could give way, you could tear the meniscus, and you could increase the risk of secondary damage and arthritis.


What is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the main restraining ligaments of the knee. It sits in the centre of your knee, running from the back of the femur (your thigh bone) to the front of the tibia (shin bone). Its role is to prevent excessive forward movement of the tibia, keeping your knee stable, especially when you twist, turn or side-step.


3 signs of an ACL tear

The knee surgeons at Yorkshire Knee Clinic have been working with GPs and physios to identify ACL injuries early, because the earlier the diagnosis, the faster the treatment, the better the outcome and the less likelihood of secondary damage.

There’s very, very good evidence that a trio of symptoms, occurring after a non-contact twisting injury, are classic signs of ACL damage:

  • You hear or feel a ‘crack’
  • The knee swells (typically within an hour)
  • You’ll be unable to play on/continue your activity

    >  Discover more about ACL injuries


Don’t ‘keep calm and carry on’

Following an ACL tear, two things tend to happen. First, you’ll visit your GP or A&E, but because of the swelling it will be difficult to diagnose the precise problem. As a result, you’ll be advised to adopt the RICE method (Raise, Ice, Compression, Elevation), take a few anti-inflammatories (i.e. ibuprofen) and see how things go for a couple of weeks.

Second, and most deceptively, the ACL will probably settle down within a couple of weeks, but whilst the swelling and pain will subside, the underlying injury will remain, waiting to strike once you resume sporting activities.

So, if you experience the above three symptoms as part of a non-contact twisting injury, don’t assume a simple knee sprain. Talk to the consultants of Yorkshire Knee Clinic for fast diagnosis and treatment of something that’s likely to be much more severe.

    >  Discover more about ACL injuries
    >  Read more about our Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeons
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