ACL Tear

Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine

Michael L. Blackwell, MD


For serious athletes, an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear is almost an occupational hazard. This painful knee problem can have a serious impact on your future abilities, but Michael Blackwell, MD, at the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Tomball and The Woodlands, Texas, can help. Dr. Blackwell is a highly skilled orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist who excels at repairing ACL tears. If you have an ACL tear or knee injury, call the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine today or request an appointment using the online booking tool.

ACL Tear Q & A

What is an ACL tear?

An ACL tear is an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament. The ACL is one of four major ligaments in your knee. You have collateral ligaments on each side of your knee, and two cruciate ligaments inside your knee. The cruciate ligaments connect the bones that make up your knee joint. 

The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is at the back of your knee, and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is at the front. Together they control your ability to move your knee backward and forward.

ACL injuries can range from a mild sprain, which is known as a Grade 1 sprain, to a Grade 3 sprain, where the ACL tears into two pieces. A Grade 3 ACL tear can make your knee joint unstable.

What causes ACL tears?

ACL tears usually happen during physical activity. The types of movement that can cause ACL tears include:

  • Rapid direction changes
  • Sudden stops
  • Slowing too fast

Landing awkwardly after a jump can tear the ACL, and impact injuries during contact sports can also lead to the ACL tearing.

What are the symptoms of an ACL tear?

When the injury occurs, you might hear a popping sound in the joint. Your knee is likely to fold beneath you and could give way, so you fall. After a day or so, your knee looks swollen, feels painful, and is probably tender to touch. Your knee could well be unstable, making it hard to walk.

Sometimes, the symptoms of an ACL tear ease off without treatment. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean your knee is healing – ACL tears can’t heal without intervention. It can make you think your injury wasn’t as bad as you thought, though, which leads you to believe you can start using your knee again.

If you do keep using your knee, you could end up making the damage even worse, so it’s always best to get a diagnosis from Dr. Blackwell at the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

What treatments are there for ACL tears?

Treatment for an ACL tear depends on the individual patient.

If you’re an older person who doesn’t go running and jumping or doing other vigorous exercises, you might find that knee bracing and physical therapy restore function adequately. However, if you’re young and physically active, or need your knee for playing sports, you might want to undergo surgery to repair an ACL tear.

ACL surgery involves using a graft, which is a piece of tissue taken from either your patellar tendon or your hamstring tendon. You could also have a tendon donated from a cadaver. The graft joins the two ends of the torn ACL together.

Rehabilitation after ACL surgery takes about six months. Providing you attend your physical therapy sessions and follow Dr. Blackwell’s instructions, you should get the full use of your knee back after ACL surgery.

For more information, call the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine today or request an appointment online.