Tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) commonly occur in footballers, netball players and skiers. Most ACL ruptures occur when the athlete lands from a jump, pivoting or decelerating suddenly.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four strong ligaments connecting the bones of the knee. The function of the ACL is to provide stability to the knee and to minimize stress across the joint. It restrains excessive forward movement of the lower leg bone in relation to the thigh bone. It also limits rotational movements of the knee.


An injury to the ACL can be caused by a number of events:

  • landing from a jump into the air e.g. football
  • pivoting or decelerating suddenly e.g. netball What do I feel?
  • You may hear a popping sound
  • Severe pain at knee in initial stage
  • Swelling, tenderness or restriction about the knee joint

What can I do?

  • Rest – stop exercising, avoid excessive walking
  • ICE (Ice, Compression and Elevation)
  • See a physiotherapist for rehabilitation and exercises within 24-48 hours

ACL tears are the most common cause of prolonged absence from sport. Management for ACL tears is either via surgical or conservative methods and is dependent on a number of factors which your physiotherapist can discuss with you. It can take six to twelve months to fully return from an ACL rupture following reconstruction.