How To Know If You Have An ACL Tear

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

If you play some sports like football, basketball, tennis, or volleyball, chances are that you or someone you know has experienced an ACL injury, in this guide, we share how to know if you have an ACL tear injury. An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury is an injury of the knee that young athletes and middle-aged people usually experience. It can be a painful condition that can make even normal walking and doing daily activities and tasks quite challenging. To understand what an ACL injury is and its treatment options, it is important first to understand how your knees work and what happens when you have an ACL tear.

Brief Anatomy of the Knee

Your knee comprises a joint where three types of bones meet: the thigh bone, the shin bone, and the kneecap. The kneecap is at the front of the joint and offers protection to the joint. The bones in the knee are connected with each other through ligaments. Ligaments help in stabilising the knee and holding its bones together. There are two main types of ligaments in the knee joint:

  • Cruciate Ligaments—The Cruciate ligaments comprise the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The ACL is at the front of the knee joint, and the PCL is at the back. The ACL provides rotational stability to the knee and prevents the shin bone from sliding in front of the thigh bone. On the other hand, the PCL prevents the shin bone from moving backwards too far.
  • Collateral Ligaments—These two sets of collateral ligaments are the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), found on the sides of the knees. The MCL is on the inside of the knee, and the LCL is on the outside.

Most knee injuries occur in the ACL, and ACL tears are quite common. Different factors can cause ACL tears, which are discussed in the following section.

How is ACL Tear Diagnosed?

The doctor will perform an initial evaluation of your injury and conduct a physical examination that involves moving the knee and leg at different angles to assess the location and nature of the injury. Furthermore, the doctor may order imaging tests like an X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound scan to confirm the diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is complete, the doctor may suggest non-surgical or surgical treatment options, depending on the case.

In some cases, the doctor may order an arthroscopy in which a tiny camera is inserted into a small incision on the knee. The camera allows the doctor to view the actual injury site and suggest treatment accordingly.

What Are The Possible Complications Of An ACL tear?

An ACL tear, if left untreated, can cause various other complications such as increased knee instability, knee movement restriction, increased risk of knee arthritis, and muscle weakness. All these complications have the risk of becoming chronic conditions. Therefore, a timely visit to the doctor’s clinic and getting adequate treatment are crucial to ensure that such complications can be minimized or avoided altogether.

Pain Management and Rehabilitation

It is common to feel some pain after having an ACL reconstruction surgery. The doctor will prescribe pain medication to provide short-term relief after surgery. These may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), combined with local anaesthetics in some cases. However, in some cases of intense pain, the doctor may prescribe opioids to manage the pain. It is crucial that opioids be taken only according to the directions of the doctor for a minimum amount of time as they are addictive. Your doctor will create a pain management plan for your symptoms and pain level.

In addition to pain management, physical therapy is a significant part of post-operative care. Following a rigorous rehabilitation plan is crucial for the success of the ACL surgery. Physical therapy primarily comprises the following regimen immediately after the surgery:

  • In the initial week after surgery, physical therapy aims to regain the ability to straighten the knee fully. This is achieved through specific exercises and stretches. In addition to therapy, the incisions on the knee are kept clean and dry daily.
  • The doctor may order ice to be applied to the knee to reduce swelling and speed up recovery. The patient may also be asked to wear a brace to further aid in recovery.
  • Depending on the patient’s knee injury and the type of surgery performed, the doctor may suggest using crutches to keep the weight off the operated knee for a few days.
  • After the initial 7-10 days after surgery, physical therapy may start focusing on rehabilitation to reduce swelling, improve the range of motion of the knee, and maintain balance and mobility in the knee. Furthermore, such exercises help the patient regain strength in their quadriceps and hamstring muscles. The main focus of these rehabilitative exercises is to enable faster recovery and prevent future knee injuries.
  • Each patient progresses differently during physical therapy and rehabilitation. But generally, patients are able to go back to their high-activity sports within 6 to 12 months.

Seeking ACL Tear Injury Treatment in Singapore

An ACL tear is a painful and debilitating condition that can affect even your daily life activities. It is important for you to have a thorough discussion with your orthopaedic doctor in Singapore regarding your symptoms and the way forward in treatment. The doctor will determine a treatment plan that is suited based on your specific injury, age, activity level, and other corresponding factors.

Ray of Health is a comprehensive healthcare clinic in Singapore that provides high-quality treatment services for ACL tears, meniscus tears, knee pain, shoulder pain, and other orthopaedic conditions. The expert doctors at Ray of Health are highly qualified and experienced to handle any condition related to your musculoskeletal health. To schedule an appointment with our orthopaedic doctor in Singapore Dr James Tan, contact Ray of Health today.

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About The Author

dr james tan

Dr James Tan Chung Hui

Dr James Tan is a skilled orthopaedic surgeon at Quantum Orthopaedics who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine in Singapore. Apart from partnering with the industry to introduce various treatment techniques, Dr Tan has treated athletes from the Singapore National Teams and professional footballers from the Singapore Premier League and the Young Lions.

Dr Tan specialises in treating sports injuries of the knee, shoulder and elbow joints, as well as cartilage and meniscus surgery. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.

Qualifications and Achievements
MBBS - National University of Singapore (NUS), Faculty of Medicine
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (MRCS)
MMed - Master of Medicine in Orthopaedic Surgery (NUS)
Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh)
Adjunct Assistant Professor | NUS, LKC
Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports and Exercise Medicine
Head of Department | Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Centre
Principal Investigator of Tissue Engineering
National Medical Research Council grants
Collaboration with Scientists at NTU, TUM, A*Star, Osteopore & Trendlines Medical Singapore


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