“Tom Brady Tears ACL” was an epic 2008 headline but not the only time you hear about someone tearing their ACL. A number of other professional athletes have torn their ACL and bounced back including Alex Morgan, Adrian Peterson, Rob Gronkowski, and Derrick Rose. An ACL tear can occur in anyone from a high school athlete on the soccer field to a cool dad in a bounce house. Since you’ll likely hear of “ACL Tear” again in your life, let us give you a quick run-down of what it is.
ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament and is located in the center of your knee. The word “cruciate” comes into play because it makes a cross or “x” with another ligament in your knee called the PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament).
Ligaments connect bone to bone, in this case it connects your femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shin bone). The role of the ACL is to stabilize your knee by preventing your tibia from moving excessively on your femur.
Image copyright: BruceBlaus, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/
How is the ACL Torn?
Believe it or not, 70% of ACL tears occur from a non-contact injury (such as jumping and landing weird from a hi-five… true story) and only 30% occur from a contact injury (getting tackled in the middle of a game).
Movements that can cause the ACL to tear include: knee hyperextension, jumping and landing on an extended knee, twisting with the foot planted on the ground, stopping quickly when running, or a direct blow to the knee.
Does Everyone Need Surgery?
No, not necessarily. It depends on how stable or unstable the knee is after the tear and the goals of the patient. If they want to go back to sport or have a timeline to get better, then most likely yes. Just want to get back to daily activities, no surgery is possible.