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First Aid for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries are more often seen in sports athletes and older adults.

What is Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury is a sprain or tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. The anterior cruciate is a ligament located on the inside of the knee joint
  • The tear may be caused by a violent twisting of the leg at the knee joint. The condition is also referred to as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear
  • The injury is more often seen in sports athletes and older adults. Usually females are affected more than males

What are the Causes of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The causes for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury could include:

  • Participation in any sports that results in the knee twisting or rotating forcefully
  • Squatting or lifting heavy objects
  • Sudden directional change causing abnormal pressure on the knee
  • Direct trauma to the front of the knee; landing awkwardly on one’s knee

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The signs and symptoms of an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury include:

  • Decreased range of motion in the knee, difficulty walking
  • Pain in the knee, which may be slight initially and then gradually increases
  • Noticeable swelling in the knee
  • A loud popping sound may be heard at the time of the injury
  • In some cases, due to the accident there may be bleeding from the injury sites

How is First Aid administered for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

First Aid tips for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury:

  • DO NOT move the knee joint immediately after the injury; doing so may aggravate the injury
  • Try to sit without much movement in a comfortable position
  • Arrest or control any bleeding using a clean cloth and by applying direct pressure (if necessary)
  • Take sufficient rest keeping the knee in a slightly elevated position
  • Use an icepack (for 15-20 minutes) on the injured site to reduce pain and swelling; repeat the process for a few hours keeping a time interval of 10-15 minutes per application of icepack
  • Use a compression bandage to stabilize the knee joint and reduce swelling
  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller, if the pain is severe
  • Avoid heat massages
  • Call 911 (or your local emergency number), if there is a medical emergency due to a serious accident/trauma
  • DO NOT move the individual, if there is a suspicion of other injuries (such as a back/spinal cord injury), or if he/she is unable to walk/move

Who should administer First Aid for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The injured individual or any bystander can administer first aid; however, the affected individual must seek medical assistance for a definitive management of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury.

What is the Prognosis of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury?

The prognosis of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury is usually good, if appropriate medical treatment is provided.

  • In most cases, the affected individual can regain use of the injured knee within a few days through proper physical therapy. However, it may be recommended to use crutches for 1-2 days following the injury
  • In some cases, a severe ACL Tear Injury may require surgery, which may take longer for the condition to heal and for one to resume normal activity

How can Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries:

  • Use appropriate safety equipment, especially while participating in sports. Also, learn the correct sports techniques
  • Wear seat-belt while driving
  • Fall-proof the home; address slippery smooth surfaces that poses risk for falls
  • Close supervise of children during their outdoor activities, playtime

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

  • Use the RICE method of rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  • Avoid any physical activity involving the affected knee for a few days to a week
  • Avoid alcohol

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 26, 2017
Last updated: March 5, 2018