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Where is the ACL?

The knee has 4 major ligaments. The knee ligament called Anterior Cruciate Ligament, or ACL, connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). The ACL helps control the back and forth motion of the knee, and also provide rotational stability to the knee.

What is an ACL Tear?

One of the most common knee injuries is an ACL sprain or tear. Athletes who participate in high demand sports like soccer, football, and basketball are more likely to injure their ACL. Most ACL injuries are complete or near complete tears.


When you injure your ACL, you might hear a "popping" noise and may feel your knee give out from under you.

Other typical symptoms include:

  • Pain with swelling. Within 24 hours, your knee will swell. If ignored, the swelling and pain may resolve on its own. However, if you attempt to return to sports, your knee will probably be unstable and you risk causing further damage to the cushioning cartilage (meniscus) of your knee.
  • Loss of full range of motion
  • Tenderness along the joint line
  • Discomfort while walking

Treatment for an ACL

Treatment for an ACL tear will vary depending upon the patient's individual needs and activity level.

Non-Surgical Treatment for ACL Tears

A torn ACL will not heal without surgery. But non-surgical treatment may be effective for patients who are elderly or have a very low activity level. If the overall stability of the knee is intact, your doctor may recommend simple, non-surgical options including bracing and physical therapy.

Surgical Treatment for ACL Tear

Most ACL tears cannot be sutured (stitched) back together. To surgically repair the ACL and restore knee stability, the ligament must be reconstructed. Surgical reconstruction of a torn ACL involves the creation of a graft so that your thigh and shinbones are connected with ligaments or tendons taken from another part of your leg. To do the procedure, the torn ACL is removed and the graft is attached through holes the surgeon drills in the thighbone and shinbone. After the graft is passed through the holes, it is held in place with screws or other devices. The surgeon performs the procedure with the aid of an arthroscopic camera. Incisions in your skin are closed with staples, tape or stitches.

Whether your treatment involves surgery or not, rehabilitation plays a vital role in getting you back to your daily activities. A physical therapy program will help you regain knee strength and motion.

More information about torn ACL treatment:


Local Knee Surgery and/or Treatment at Your Convenience

By working with the team of knee specialists at OrthoConnecticut, you can enjoy the convenience of surgery, recovery and rehabilitation, all close to home. Our integrated team of physicians and physical therapists will work together to design a program best suited to your needs and schedule.

The animation content provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any specific questions you may have regarding a medical condition or procedure.