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ACL injury – Causes, risk factors and signs

Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury or ACL injury is one of the most common forms of sports injuries. It is more common among amateur sportspersons than the general population. The sports activities that create maximum damage to ACL are football, rugby, basketball, cricket, tennis, volleyball. 

ACL is one of the four ligaments that keep the knee joint stable. It is a very important ligament that prevents the tibia (your shin bone) from moving ahead of the femur (your thigh bone). 

Interestingly, females are more prone to ACL injury than males. People in the age group of 15 to 45 years are more affected, maybe due to their more active lifestyle. 

The main reasons for ACL injury in sports are:

  • Sudden slowing down while running like in football, rugby, and cricket
  • A sudden change of direction or cutting like in football, rugby or cricket
  • Pivoting and turning on a firm foot like in basketball
  • Landing from a jump incorrectly especially in volleyball and basketball
  • Landing on a single leg after jumping like in volleyball or basketball
  • Sudden stop while running like in tennis
  • A direct blow to the knee or the outside of the leg causing injury. E.g., Football, Volleyball, Rugby, Basketball.

Apart from sports, the other causes of an ACL tear or injury can be due to

  • Trauma or accidents 
  • Injuries to the knee or legs
  • A change in your posture or walking style
  • Sudden falls 

Risk factors of ACL injury

Some of the most common factors that increase the risk of an ACL injury are

  • Gender: Females are more prone to ACL injury than males. It may be due to the difference in strength and hormones.
  • Age: ACL tears are most common in the age group of 15-45. It probably is because one is the most active during this period of life.
  • Sports activities: Some sports like football, basketball, volleyball, and cricket increases the risk. These sports need frequent running, abrupt stops, pivoting, jumping, and landing on one leg. 
  • Previous history of ACL injury: The risk is 15% higher if you had a previous ACL injury. Your chances of repeat injuries are highest in the first year after the injury.
  • Poor muscle strength and conditioning
  • Using footwear that does not fit properly
  • Using poor quality sports equipment

Signs of an ACL tear

 An ACL injury happens suddenly. You may not have any signs or symptoms before the injury. 

 You may feel the following signs if you have an ACL injury.

  • A popping sound in the knee at the time of injury
  • Sudden swelling of the knees
  • Sharp and severe pain in the knees
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Weakness and instability of the knees 

You must seek immediate doctor attention if you feel you had an ACL tear.

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Written by Irshad K

Years Of MembershipContent Author

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