image_aeWJjaR.jpeg (image_oDjQsS8.webp)Playing fall sports like football and soccer can be thrilling, but it's essential to be aware of the possibility of knee injuries, especially related to the ACL. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a crucial ligament in the knee joint that helps provide stability. Unfortunately, football-related incidents are a leading cause of common knee injuries, including ACL tears.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we want to educate athletes about their bodies, the potential injuries they can sustain on the field, and how they can move forward after getting hurt. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions we receive about ACL injuries:

What is the ACL?

“ACL” is an acronym that stands for “anterior cruciate ligament.” The ACL is one of 4 main ligaments that support the knee joint. The ACL connects your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia).  It’s most commonly torn during sports that involve sudden stops and changes in direction.  

In addition to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), there are three other important ligaments in the knee:

  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)

What Commonly Causes ACL Injuries?

Some of the most common events that result in anterior cruciate ligament injuries include:

  • A sudden pivot or change in direction with a planted foot
  • Awkwardly landing on your feet after jumping
  • Making a sudden stop
  • Direct trauma to the knee, such as a tackle or check

These events can often happen if you fall, take a hit, or make a sudden move while you’re performing athletic activities, especially in contact sports like football. If you believe you may have injured your ACL playing sports, the highly experienced sports medicine team at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists can help. Visit our website to see a comprehensive list of our sports medicine physicians.

What Are the Common Symptoms of ACL Injuries?

There are few telltale signs of an ACL injury.  Be sure to communicate with your doctor if you’re experiencing any of them. These symptoms include the following:

  • A popping feeling in your knee, or even an audible pop
  • An inability to continue any athletic activity
  • Swelling in your knee
  • Decrease range of motion
  • Inability to bear weight on your leg

How Are ACL Injuries Treated?

Patients will be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon and determine a treatment plan.  Often times an MRI is ordered to confirm the physical exam findings performed in the office and if surgery is needed.  If surgery is indicated patients will start physical therapy within a week after surgery to restore range of motion and improve strength.  

Athletes do very well after undergoing ACL surgery and rehab.  Most athletes will tell you they feel stronger as they return to their sport compared to before they got injured. The success rate is very high for athletes to return to their sport after surgery.  

Are Non-Surgical Treatments Available For ACL Injuries?

Non-surgical treatments may be considered for minor ACL sprains, but a complete tear often requires surgery. Non-surgical options include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Bracing
  • Activity modification
  • Pain management

However, the decision depends on the severity of the injury and individual circumstances. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial for personalized treatment plans.

Can ACL Injuries Be Prevented?

While it may not be possible to completely prevent ACL injuries, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. These include proper warm-up and stretching exercises, wearing appropriate protective gear, maintaining good strength and conditioning, and using proper techniques and body mechanics during sports activities.

Visit Barrington Orthopedic For Expert Care

If you’ve sustained an injury to your ACL this fall sports season, the sports medicine specialists at Barrington Orthopedic are fully equipped to provide you with a diagnosis and a treatment plan that meets your recovery goals as an athlete.  

Is knee pain keeping you from a sports activity? Our physicians will work closely with you to determine the source of your pain and get you back on the field as quickly and effectively as possible. To schedule an appointment, contact our office at (847) 285-4200 or schedule online here

For urgent needs when our physician’s office is closed, visit our Immediate Orthopedic Care (IOC) in Schaumburg, Illinois.


What is the difference between ACL tear and ACL injury?

An ACL tear refers to when the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee is actually torn, either partially or completely. On the other hand, an ACL injury or sprain occurs when the ACL is overstretched but not torn. ACL tears can result from sports or vehicular accidents and cause pain and instability in the knee. 

Can ACL injuries increase the risk of future knee problems?

If left untreated or not properly rehabilitated, ACL injuries can increase the risk of future knee problems, such as instability, cartilage damage, and early-onset arthritis. It is crucial to seek appropriate medical care and follow through with recommended treatment plans to minimize these risks.

Can non-athletes also experience ACL injuries?

While ACL injuries are commonly associated with sports activities, they can also occur in non-athletes due to accidents or trauma, such as falls, car accidents, or workplace injuries.

Is surgery always necessary for ACL tears?

Surgery is not always necessary for ACL tears, particularly in cases of partial tears or individuals with low activity levels. Non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy and activity modification, may be sufficient. However, for athletes or individuals with high activity levels who wish to return to their sport, surgical intervention is often recommended for optimal outcomes.

What is anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction?

ACL reconstruction is a surgical procedure where the torn ACL is replaced with a graft to restore stability and function to the knee.