Healthy Blog

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture – Physiotherapy for Sports Injuries

Thursday, December 17, 2015

An anterior cruciate ligament rupture (ACL) happens when the AC Ligament inside your knee tears - partly or completely. It’s a common sports injury for athletes who do demanding sports that force you to run and stop sharply, to kick a ball hard or to jump up and swivel your body round quickly.  This includes sports like football, rugby, basketball, running and cycling amongst others.

Signs and symptoms of an ACL tear:

  • There may be a pop or crack sound at the time of injury
  • A torn ACL is extremely painful at the time of injury
  • A feeling of instability often followed by extensive swelling
  • Swelling of the knee  - usually extensive but can be just a little swelling later on
  • Stiff knee joint and an inability to fully straighten the leg
  • Possibly widespread mild tenderness

First aid

  • Immediately stop play or competition
  • Then you’ll need RICE immediately - Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation of the knee
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible

Quick treatment will help prevent further damage, so rest and an ice pack immediately.  The knee should be wrapped in a bandage and elevated for this very painful injury.  You’ll probably need some painkillers to take the edge off the pain.  Don’t put any weight on the knee and use crutches when you need to walk.  Don’t think it will get better on its own – it won’t.  See a physiotherapist or doctor as soon as possible.

Physiotherapy treatment

A physiotherapist uses massage, manipulation and mobilisation combined with stretching and planned exercise.  This will reduce your symptoms and strengthen your weakened muscles to help you get back to your sport.

Depending on how bad your anterior cruciate ligament rupture is, your physiotherapist may provide you with a combination of the following effective treatments:

  • Ice or heat pack application
  • Ultrasound
  • Soft tissue mobilization
  • Joint mobilization
  • Range of motion exercises (ROM)
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Strengthening exercises

Rehabilitation of an ACL rupture is done in several stages, so try to be patient and allow the physiotherapy to work.  And with a bit of luck you’ll be back out there scoring goals and winning races with no permanent damage!