Kellie K. Middleton, MD

Common Symptoms Of An ACL Tear

Nov 03, 2022
Common Symptoms Of An ACL Tear
It’s not uncommon to experience a range of concerning symptoms after a fall or injury during exercise or spots. However, some symptoms could be signs of an ACL tear, which needs to be treated by a doctor...

It’s not uncommon to experience a range of concerning symptoms after a fall or injury during exercise or spots. However, some symptoms could be signs of an ACL tear, which needs to be treated by a doctor. Here are some common symptoms that explain what a torn ACL feels like.

What is an ACL Tear?

To correctly interpret the signs of an ACL tear, it’s important to understand what a torn ALC actually is. ACL stands for the anterior cruciate ligament, which is the stretchy band of connective tissue that runs from the femur to the tibia and helps keep the knee from hyperextending. During a sudden strain or reversal in motion, the anterior cruciate ligament can be stretched beyond its limits resulting in a tear. The tear can range in severity from a sprain, partial tear, or severe complete tear.

Common Symptoms May Include:

  • Intense Pain- Tearing an ACL isn’t something that can occur without you noticing. It often happens during physical activity, spots, or exercising, during which you step wrong or experience a fall. There is an immediate, intense, sharp pain in the shin and knee areas that intensifies with movement.
  • Popping Sound- During the incident that caused the ACL tear, there is often an audible popping sound. This is the sound of the ligament snapping due to unbearable strain.
  • Inability to Walk- The leg with a torn ACL will most likely not be able to bear weight without extreme pain or the leg giving out. Even when a person can put minimal weight on their affected leg, the leg will feel insatiable. If you think you’ve torn your ACL, or injured your leg in another way, don’t try to walk on your affected leg as an additional fall can cause more injuries and complicate your tear.

Common Symptoms

  • Reduced Range of Motion- In the case of a partial tear or sprain, you may be able to limp your way home. However, it will soon become apparent that your knee joint is not functioning normally and your range of motion is severely limited.
  • Rapid Swelling In the event of a torn ACL, the tissues surrounding the damage begin to noticeably swell, called injury-induced edema. When the body is injured, it immediately sends excess fluid and white blood cells to the area affected to cushion damaged tissues from further injury and jumpstart healing. While swelling can be painful, it’s the first step in the healing process.
  • Rapid Bruising on the Knee and Shin- The rapid appearance of bruising after a torn ligament is common. In the instance of a torn ALC severe bruising may occur in or around the knee joint. The bruising around the knee can indicate an arterial bleed inside the knee joint. This bleeding, also known as hemarthrosis, can lead to serious damage to the cartilage of the knee if the joint is used too often.
  • Numbness- In the case of a severe ACL tear, there may be complete numbness below the knee. In this instance, an injured person shouldn’t try to move their leg at all and proceed to the nearest emergency room.


The recovery process from a torn ACL can look differently depending on the severity of the tear and whether or not surgery is required to correct the tear. If there is a partial tear, you can expect a reduction of ACL tear symptoms in 2 weeks. If you have surgery, there are good odds that you won’t have full functionality for 6 months.

Have you experienced a torn ALC

Have you experienced a torn ALC?

Do you have, or suspect you have, a torn ACL? If you are experiencing the symptoms above, it’s time to see a medical professional. If you need to be seen, contact us HERE and we can help determine what treatment plan is best for you.