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Everything you Need to Know About ACL Injuries

Australia has the highest reported rates of ACL injuries in the world. The rates of ACL injuries are rising too, with a 70% increase in under 25s in the last 15 years. ACL injuries are common in AFL, rugby, netball, and similar sports that require young athletes, intense training regimes, long seasons, and a high level of competition.

This article explores the symptoms, causes, preventions, risks, and treatments for ACL injuries. For specific information and advice, talk to your physio.


The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a strong band of tissue that connects your shin bone to the thigh bone. It is one of two ligaments that middle of the knee and helps to stabilise the knee joint.  ACL injuries can occur in varying severity from a minor strain to a major tear. The first symptoms of an ACL injury are:

  • A pop or snap sensation at the time of injury.
  • Severe pain and inability to continue your sport or activity.
  • Loss of movement or range of motion.
  • Feeling of instability or inability to weight bear.
  • Rapid swelling.

If you suspect you have an ACL injury, you should first implement RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and then seek medical attention.


ACL injuries typically occur while participating in physical activity. This may be during sports, fitness activities, everyday exercise, or elite sport. Ultimately, they can occur during any activity that places the knee joint under stress. This includes:

  • Sudden change of direction.
  • Landing awkwardly after a jump.
  • Sudden stopping.
  • Pivoting your body without moving your foot.
  • A blow or collision below the knee – this can occur during a tackle. 

Risk Factors

There are a few factors that can increase the risk of an ACL injury. This includes the types of sports as well as the biomechanics of the individual. High risk sports include soccer, football, basketball, gymnastics, and snow sports. Common risk factors include:

  • Footwear that doesn’t fit properly or isn’t supportive.
  • Poor pre-activity conditioning.
  • Playing on artificial turf.
  • Women have a slightly higher risk due to differences in anatomy and muscle strength.  


There are some exercises that can prevent the risk of an ACL injury. Your physio, personal trainer, sports trainer, or physical therapist can help you to strengthen key areas that support your ACL, knee, and surrounding muscles. The following prevention tips will reduce your overall risk of injury, not just your risk of an ACL condition.

  • Strengthening the core: The core extends from the hips and pelvis to abdomen. Your knees should not move inwards during a squat and core strength can help you to avoid this movement.
  • Strengthening the leg muscles: Increasing the strength in your legs, particularly your hamstring muscles, can ensure balance in the legs.
  • Emphasizing proper technique: Always train and practice with proper technique with attention to the position of the knee. Also focus on technique when performing change of direction like pivoting and cutting.


Treatment for ACL injuries varies depending on the individual. Factors like the severity of your injury, your medical history, strength, and access to treatment can influence your recovery. Treatments include surgery, physiotherapy, stretching, and structured rehabilitation.

Book your physiotherapy appointment

If you’re recovering from an ACL injury, you may benefit from physiotherapy treatment. Book your appointment at Northern Districts Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic with one of our friendly and experienced practitioners today.

CALL 02 9874 8410      BOOK ONLINE

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Northern Districts Physiotherapy

Northern Districts Physiotherapy & Sports Clinic was established in 1995 and consists of an energetic team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who take the time to understand ...


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