ZocdocAnswers"How would I know if I had torn a ligament, like my ACL or MCL, in my knee?"

Question

"How would I know if I had torn a ligament, like my ACL or MCL, in my knee?"

I was playing basketball with some friends and landed awkwardly. I felt a sharp pain in my knee. Could I have torn something? I am a 24 year old college student - male.

Answer

There are definitely different ways that a physician can determine whether there has been an injury in a ligament (like an ACL tear), vs just a sprain. First of all "ACL" is an acronym that stands for the "Anterior Cruciate Ligament" which helps maintain the structural integrity of the knee joint. Specifically it attaches posteriorly in the deep notch of the femoral condyle, and attaches anteriorly on the tibial plateau. The knee of course is a joint between the femoral (thigh) bone, and the tibia (mainly) and fibula (minor). the anatomic position of the ACL is such that its function is to prevent the tibia (shin bone) from sliding anteriorly with regards to the fibula. It makes sense then that the "test" that most athletic trainers, or physicians use to help discern whether someone has torn their ACL is called the "anterior drawer" test. The knee is placed in a 90 degree position, and the fibula is held in place, while the tibia is pulled anteriorly, and the physician can determine whether the anterior movement is excessive which is indicative of an ACL tear. There is also something called the "Lachman test" which is designed to get similar information. Often times an MRI is also obtained of the joint which is a great study to look at soft tissues, and cartilage to determine if there is a cartilage tear, or ligamentous injury. I would recommend that if you are having continued issues with your knee, or if there is pain/swelling that does not go away quickly, then you should make an appointment to be seen by an orthopedic surgeon. I hope that this is helpful, and I wish you all the best.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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