Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear Symptoms

“In My Office”

‘While playing football yesterday, I came down from a catch and landed awkwardly — I felt something pop in my knee — it doesn’t feel right, what symptoms should I look for?’

Symptoms in your knee following an injury can oftentimes be fairly vague. A distinct pop in your knee that occurs during an injury is usually significant. If there is associated joint swelling that happens soon after the event or by the following day, it is blood. An excess of normal joint fluid takes much longer to develop. The most common cause for bleeding into the knee is a torn anterior cruciate ligament. If you experience a pop and bleeding into your knee, there is a 70% chance that you have an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Occasionally, damage of the articular or tread cartilage with an associated crack into the underlying bone can also cause bleeding into the joint.
Recurrent popping, especially with twisting or bending your knee, is more likely due to a torn meniscus or cartilage ring. The meniscus is a tough, firm, almost rubbery disc that lies between the thighbone and lower leg. The magnitude of instability or sense of looseness you experience with an ACL tear can be quite variable. In some instances, there is almost no feeling of instability. Alternatively, your knee may buckle or ‘give way’ with even a small twist. If there are additional ligaments that are torn, the chances of looseness are much greater.
Pain is often poorly localized with an ACL tear. Once the ligament is torn, the damaged tissue is no longer on tension and nerve endings are not stimulated. A more likely cause for pain is distension of the knee joint with blood, or an associated tissue injury, such as a torn meniscus.
Stiffness is a common complaint and can be related to tissue damage, swelling of the tissues, or distension of the knee joint. Attempts to bend your knee when it is full of fluid or blood is much like trying to bend a sausage – the pressure generated can cause a great deal of pain. If any of these symptoms are present or persist, you should be seen for an evaluation as an attempt to return to activities can lead to further damage to your knee.