What Does ACL Stand For?

what does ACL stand for
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ACL injuries are one of the most devastating and common sports injuries today. But what does ACL stand for? The anterior cruciate ligament is known as the ACL. It’s one of the ligament bands that connects the thigh and shin bones at the knee.

Athletes who participate in high-demand sports like soccer, football, and basketball are more likely to injure their anterior cruciate ligaments.  The majority of tears occur as a result of landing, planting, cutting, or rotating activities common in these sports. Injuring your knee and tearing your ACL can impair your ability to stand, walk, and do daily routines or activities.

No situation, in the opinion of many young athletes, is bleaker than a knee injury that necessitates surgical repair. It may feel like a career-ender for some players.

Fortunately, this does not have to be the case in the majority of circumstances. Many athletes can safely return to sports with prompt intervention and collaboration between a surgeon, Dallas physical therapist, and athletic trainer.

If you have injured your anterior cruciate ligament, contact SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy. Our knee doctors in Dallas and physical therapists provide a comprehensive range of treatment options for a range of ailments and injuries including ACL reconstruction, knee replacement, and meniscus repair surgery. We have a lot of experience treating both sports and non-sport injuries. Whatever caused your injury, we’re here to provide you with a diagnosis and cutting-edge treatment options for your knee instability. Not only do we treat ACL injuries, we also treat the following.

What Is the ACL?

Ligaments are strong tissue bands that join two bones together. Your knee joint is held together by the ACL. The ACL connects the thighbone to the shinbone. It is one of two ligaments that cross in the center of your knee.

What does ACL stand for? The anterior cruciate ligament is referred to as the ACL. The tough bands of tissue that link bones or hold organs in place are referred to as “ligaments” in medicine. “Anterior” means it is located on the front side of the body. Cruciate refers to the two ligaments in your knee that form the shape of a cross. These are the ACL in the front and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in the rear.

Where Is Your ACL?

where is your acl

The human knee has three bones in it. These include your femur, tibia, and patella (also known as the thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap.) To provide some protection, your kneecap rests in front of the joint.

Ligaments connect the bones to one another. The knee is made up of four major ligaments. They operate as strong cords, holding the bones together and providing knee stability.

Collateral Ligaments

These are located on the sides of your knee. The medial collateral ligament is toward the inner part of the knee. The lateral collateral ligament is on the outside. They brace your knee against unexpected movement and control its sideways motion.

Cruciate Ligaments

These are located within the knee joint, with the anterior cruciate ligament in front and the posterior cruciate ligament in the back creating an “X.” The cruciate ligaments control the bending movement of the knee.

The anterior cruciate ligament crosses the center of the knee diagonally. It also offers rotational stability to the knee by preventing the tibia from sliding in front of the femur.

ACL Tear

Injury to other knee components such as articular cartilage, meniscus, or other ligaments happens in conjunction with about half of all ACL injuries.

Because the ligaments are stretched or torn, these injuries are sprains. They are evaluated on a scale of severity.

Grade 1 Sprains

In a Grade 1 Sprain, the ligament is mildly injured. It has been slightly stretched but is still capable of stabilizing the knee joint.

Grade 2 Sprains

The ligament is stretched to the point of becoming loose in a Grade 2 Sprain. This is commonly referred to as a partial ligament tear.

ACL partial tears are uncommon. The majority of ACL injuries are near-complete or complete tears.

Grade 3 Sprains

This sprain is a complete tear of the ligament. The ligament has broken into two sections, causing instability in the knee joint.

Tibial Spine Avulsion ACL Injury

A tibial spine avulsion ACL injury is a typical occurrence in adolescents. The ACL is not torn in this form of injury, but the ligament’s bony attachment to the tibia (lower leg bone) is ripped away. If the injury is not treated, it might result in knee weakness or instability, depending on how far the ligament’s bone attachment is pulled away.

Causes of ACL Tears

causes of acl tears

What does ACL stand for? It stands for anterior cruciate ligament. This ligament is prone to tearing in athletes and others who are active. Most ACL tears commonly occur as a result of certain sports and fitness activities that place stress on the knee. These activities include cutting or suddenly slowing and changing direction, pivoting on one foot with the other planted firmly, a bad landing, sudden stops, and a direct blow to the knee like a football tackle.

Several studies have come to the conclusion that in some sports, female athletes have a higher risk of ACL damage than male players. This could be attributed to differences in physical conditioning, muscle strength, and neuromuscular control, according to some theories.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that enhance your chances of tearing your ACL. These factors include:

  • Being female — possibly due to differences in anatomy, leg muscle strength, and hormonal influences
  • Playing sports, such as soccer, downhill skiing, basketball, football, and gymnastics
  • Poor conditioning
  • Using faulty movement patterns, such as moving the knees inward during a squat
  • Wearing footwear that is not a good fit
  • Using poorly maintained sports equipment, such as ski bindings that aren’t adjusted properly
  • Playing on artificial turf

How Is an ACL Torn in Sporting Events?

how is an acl torn in sporting events

In sports featuring pivoting motions, such as soccer, football, basketball, skiing, golf, or tennis, commonly injure the ACL. These sports plant the foot with the knee bent. There is usually a quick shift in direction, which stresses the ligament.

Injuries to the ACL are a higher risk in contact sports. Knee impacts from the outside cause the tibia to move forward while the femur remains stationary or moves backward. Anterior cruciate ligament injures occur alone or combined with the medial collateral ligament (MCL) damage.

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries also happen as a result of extreme hyperextension of the knee joint. 

ACL Tear Symptoms

The following are common signs and symptoms of an ACL injury:

  • The sensation of a loud snap or “popping” in the knee
  • Unbearable pain and the inability to continue activities 
  • Quick sweeling
  • Range of motion loss
  • Knee may feel unstable


People with past ACL damage are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees. This is even if you have surgery to rebuild the ligament.

The severity of the original injury, the presence of other knee injuries in the knee joint, and the degree of activity after treatment are all likely to influence the likelihood of arthritis.


Reduce ACL injuries with proper training and activity. A sports medicine physician, physical therapist, or athletic trainer helps you reduce risks by assessing, instructing, and providing feedback.

Ways to prevent injury include:

  • Core strengthening exercises that include the lower abdomen, hips, and pelvis. Teaching athletes not to move their knees inward during a squatting maneuver. This may be especially helpful in lowering the risk of ACL injury in female athletes.
  • Strengthen muscles with leg exercises, such as hamstring workouts, to help maintain a healthy balance of leg muscle strength.
  • Emphasizing knee posture and good technique when jumping and landing from leaps.
  • Practicing pivoting and cutting movements in order to enhance technique.

Treatment For ACL Tear

treatment for acl tear

The treatment for a torn ACL varies based on the needs of the patient. But what does ACL stand for? The ACL is a ligament in your knee. It is called the anterior cruciate ligament. It is susceptible to damage in certain physical activities and posts. When dealing with ACL tears in combination with other injuries in the knee, surgery is frequently recommended. For certain individuals, however, opting out of surgery is a viable option.

Nonsurgical Treatment

The injured knee can be brought back to its pre-injury state through progressive physical therapy and rehabilitation. The patient is also educated on how to avoid instability. A hinged knee brace helps as well. If the knee’s overall stability is intact, your doctor may suggest nonsurgical treatments.

For patients with isolated ACL ruptures, nonsurgical care is likely to be successful or may be appropriate for the following patients:

  • With mild injury and no signs of instability
  • Who are willing to give up high-demand sports and show no signs of knee instability during low-demand sports
  • Engaging in light manual labor or who lead sedentary lifestyles
  • Children whose growth plates haven’t closed yet 

Surgical Treatment

The ACL is prone to tearing. However, what does ACL stand for? It stands for anterior cruciate ligament and it helps control the movements of the knee. The torn ligament is surgically repaired and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction completed to make the knee stable again. A tissue graft replaces your injured ligament. This graft serves as a foundation for the growth of a new ligament.

Grafts are available from four main sources. The patellar tendon runs between the kneecap and the shinbone and hamstring tendons in the rear of the thigh. Quadriceps tendons are another option. These run from the kneecap into the thigh. Surgery also uses grafts from a cadaver (allograft.)

Surgeons use an arthroscope when reconstructing the anterior cruciate ligament. Arthroscopic knee surgery uses small incisions and is less intrusive and has the advantage of less pain from surgery, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster recovery.

Because regrowth takes time, an athlete’s return to sports after surgery may take six months or longer.

Surgical Complications

As with all surgeries, there are risks and possible complications. These include:


After arthroscopic ACL restoration, the risk of infection is small. However, deaths have been attributed to bacterial infection from allografts due to poor procurement and sterilizing practices.

Viral Transmission

Despite extensive screening and processing, allografts are linked to the risk of viral transmission, including HIV and Hepatitis C. It is estimated that the chances of receiving a bone allograft from an HIV-positive donor are less than one in a million.

Bleeding and Numbness

Bleeding from a popliteal artery injury is a rare concern, as is weakness or paralysis of the leg or foot.

Blood Clot

Blood clots in the calf or thigh veins are a potentially life-threatening condition, though rare.


It’s possible that the rebuilt ligament can rupture or stretch again, or that poor surgical skill will result in recurrent instability.


Some individuals have complained of knee stiffness or loss of motion following surgery.

Extensor Mechanism Failure

Patellar tendon autograft rupture or patella fracture (patellar tendon or quadriceps tendon autografts) can develop due to weakness at the graft harvest site.

Growth Plate Injury

Restoration in young children or adolescents with ACL rupture increases the risk of growth plate damage. This can lead to bone growth issues. The ACL surgery can be postponed until the child’s skeletal maturity is complete.

Kneecap Pain

After a patellar tendon autograft ACL restoration, anterior knee discomfort is very common.

Pain Management

Following surgery, medications are frequently provided for short-term pain management. Some of the medications available to help with pain include opioids, local anesthetics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).


rehabilitation for acl tear

Physical therapy is an important element of a successful anterior cruciate ligament surgery, with exercises for the leg muscles starting as soon as the operation is completed. The patient’s commitment to physical therapy is critical to the success of ACL reconstruction surgery. 

Reducing knee swelling, maintaining kneecap mobility to avoid anterior knee pain problems, restoring full range of motion of the knee, and strengthening the quadriceps and hamstring muscles are all goals of ACL repair therapy.

The rehabilitation period is around six to nine months after surgery before an athlete is ready to return to competition. The full range of motion, as well as all balance, knee strength, knee stability, and endurance, should be restored. The majority of athletes will return to their previous level of performance.

Contact SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy Today

Don’t try to bear weight or walk on a ruptured ACL. This frequently leads to a more serious knee injury with a longer recovery time. SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy can help you regain full strength if you fear you have torn your ACL. Ask our specialists about ACL tear treatment in Dallas today.

We have the equipment and experience to treat you regardless of the severity of your injury. Whether you only require the assistance of one of our Dallas physical therapists or you have a greater injury requiring the skill of our Dallas orthopaedic surgeons. Please call 469-200-2832 or fill out our online intake form to make an appointment with us.