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What does an ACL tear feel like?

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
For some reason, this year I'm totally paranoid about tearing an ACL. For absolutely no good reason. I just seem to think about it a lot. Usually on the way to the slopes.

So today, on the last run of the day (of course), I fell weird and tweaked my knee. It's something on the inside of the knee, and hurts when I rotate my upper leg inward. I think it's actually nothing, since I don't seem to be able to make it hurt much right now. But I was just wondering...
post #2 of 50
Although I've never torn an ACL, I've done just about everything else you can do to a knee, and have had 5 surgeries to prove it. :

Evidently, an ACL tear doesn't represent itself with as much pain as it does with instability. So i'd be concerned if your knee was especially wobbly. I've also heard that when you tear an ACL, you HEAR it!
post #3 of 50
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by skichick70
I've also heard that when you tear an ACL, you HEAR it!
Yes, that's what I hear. But I had ear phones on Not very loud.. but I don't know how loud the pop is *shrug*
post #4 of 50
It's different for everyone. When I tore mine (cycling wreck) I was in extreme pain and had to be ambulanced. But I also had a significant MCL tear which I think is where most of my pain came from.

I played football in college I saw a lot of guys run off the field after tearing an ACL with no pain. Other had to be carried off in severe pain.

My brother tore ACLs skiing on two super bowl sundays in a row. Neither were painful and both times he heard it pop.

post #5 of 50
I had virtually no pain at all with my ACL tear in my left knee. But a definite pop and a sickening collapse where I just fell on my butt because my knee was suddenly not holding me upright. I stood back up and skied down the mountain. It swelled a great deal within a few hours and I hobbled around for a few weeks until the swelling went down. My family doc didn't know what he was looking at and said it was nothing, so I ended up running, skiing and everything else on it for what ended up being a full year before I had surgery to repair it.

My right ACL tore last year while mountain biking. I dabbed a foot during a DH race and heard the pop and collapsed on my side. Jumped back up and kept racing and the next time I went to dab that foot my foot basically collapsed all the way in to my chest at a very wrong angle and that one HURT. After that it was the same scenario.

Swelling is a much more accurate indicator than pain, IMHO. And instability is the biggest indicator. The biggest thing I felt was just feeling absolutely sick to my stomach knowing that my knee should not be collapsed in the direction it went. If you're dealing with pain in the knee and/or mild instability I would say it's much more likely to be a meniscus problem or something similar.
post #6 of 50
When I blew mine out in March I felt no pain and had no instability. I continued to ski untill the swelling impinged on my mobility. Work on your flexability and strength.
post #7 of 50
Thread Starter 
I have no swelling and the pain is just a distent rement, so I think I'm okay.

I have no idea why I'm so freaked this year. This is the first season I actually did specific ACL and knee strengthening exercises pre-season. Maybe that was a bad idea
post #8 of 50
The pop is an internal sound. I don't think anyone else could hear it, but YOU would definitely have heard/felt it. Mine was more a sensory thing--I just knew my ACL was a done deal as soon as I heard that sound.

Pain wasn't too bad, kept skiing an hour or so afterwards, but walking was close to impossible.

I really hope you are ok, 'cause having a non-wrecked ACL is much better than having a blown out one, if you're picking up what I'm dropping off.

Keep the muscles around the knee (quad, glute, hamstring ab/adductors, even the calves) good and strong. Good luck!
post #9 of 50

I had no strength in that knee

When I tore my ACL skiing it was in a pretty fast fall where I came out of both skis and slid 50-100 feet. I felt a sharp pain in my knee when I first fell but it had pretty much stopped hurting by the time I stopped sliding. I found that after I got my skis gathered up and back on that I couldn't really put any weight on that leg. While it didn't hurt just standing around I couldn't really use it going down the hill very well.
post #10 of 50
You need to differentiate between a partial 'tear' and a complete rupture. I'm not sure about the tear but they are supposed to hurt quite a bit.

As for the rupture there is no missing it. I didn't so much hear it but the 'pop' like a thick elastic giving way reverberates through your body. It's distinct, it's clear what happened. I too felt little pain (very brief intense pain) and then no pain. Not sure if someone next to you would hear a pop or what people think they hear is more what they feel. Either way my sense was to feel it others may be different.

The partial tear supposedly hurt a lot and swell lots quickly. I had little to no swelling with my rupture even by the second day. I did not put any weight on it though.
post #11 of 50
You can definately hear someone else's ACL pop.

I was playing tackle football in college and my hockey player friend took out someone's legs and I heard a loud crack almost like someone clapping really loud.

The kid popped his ACL.

I also heard mine pop when I blew it out and it was not just an internal sound.
post #12 of 50

You'll hear it...

I tore my ACL, MCL, and LCL playing lacrosse in 2003. It was pretty loud -- everyone on the sidelines heard it too. Sounded like three pencils snapping.

It wasn't pretty.
post #13 of 50
i felt and heard a pop when i fell out of control down some moguls in snowbird years ago. slki patrol came, i tried to stand and had no stability in my knee.they gave me a stabilizer and i could stand. at least it happened on the last day of a vacation out west.
never had it fixed, still skiing 15 years later.--lots of strength exercises, tho
post #14 of 50
When I tore my ACL not only did I hear it pop but so did my buddies near me. Having also had meniscal tears, they hurt along the "joint line" --i.e. just medial are lateral to the knee cap. ACL tears are more about rapid onset of swelling, followed by sense of instability. If your not sure, go get it checked out. If you have a meniscal tear and you keep using it, having that extra piece of material jamming into what should be the relatively frictionless surfaces of the femur and tibia does lots of harm to that smoooth cartilage in there. Most people think the meniscus feels like a rubber o-ring but it actually feels more like spun fiberglass--fine when it's smooth, not fine when it's rough. Good luck!!!:
post #15 of 50
Thread Starter 
Skied today, knee felt fine!
post #16 of 50
Interesting to hear of bystanders hearing it go. My experience was more to feel it which may have overwhelmed any sense of hearing so I always wondered if people 'hearing' it were more relating that same feeling to hearing. The bystanders wouldn't have felt much except maybe some queaziness.
post #17 of 50
For me it was earing a "pop" and then feeling some ache.
It hurt somewhat but mostly from the bone bruising.
Nice joint effusion quickly followed.
post #18 of 50
Didn't hear mine go pop. However, after I hit the ground after falling off the table (don't ask) I felt a good deal of pain. When I tried to stand up the leg folded up under me and threw me back down on the ground. I figured there was something very wrong at that point.
post #19 of 50
Originally Posted by ChrisInSeattle
For some reason, this year I'm totally paranoid about tearing an ACL. For absolutely no good reason. I just seem to think about it a lot. Usually on the way to the slopes.

So today, on the last run of the day (of course), I fell weird and tweaked my knee. It's something on the inside of the knee, and hurts when I rotate my upper leg inward. I think it's actually nothing, since I don't seem to be able to make it hurt much right now. But I was just wondering...
So you really want to know...

Take a complete chicken wing in your hands. Grasp the "drumstick" in one hand and the "wing" in the other. Twist both pieces in opposite directions. You will likely hear an audible "crunching" sound or maybe if you do it just right a "pop". That my friend was the sound I heard when I ruptured my left ACL playing Rugby. In my case I knew something was wrong right away.

However, I know people who have torn an ACL without having their knee giveout or make a sound.
post #20 of 50

I tore the  ACL in my left leg during a weight lifting session. was so terribly painful and the knee cap would dislocate. would actually dislocate to the left and i would have to snap it back in place. needed surgery quick. a torn anything in the knee is nothing to ponder. go get it checked. ps the longer you wait, the better the chance you will continue to tear it. and the bigger the tear, the better the odds of aerthritis setting in .  

post #21 of 50

i went to the doctor today and he said if the swelling is lastng for over a week schedule a mri but he also thinks its a torn meniscus. mne is also on the side of the inside of my knee.

post #22 of 50

I did my acl in high school football. It was more of a tearing sensation than a pop, took about 15 seconds than most the pain was gone, the knee would lock back when I tried to walk, and I could only bend it 10-15 degrees after the tear. The meniscus tear felt alot different, it was a pop (bad landing after a jump) and was sore for the rest of the day. Skied down on one leg called it quits for the day, skied again the next weekend with some pain in the knee but not unbearable, been doing pt to keep the knee strong but im eventually going to need surgery. 

post #23 of 50

ok, so here's a side question, noted by ChrisInSeattle, exercise for the ACL ... if torn or damaged .. what are good exercises?  (sorry, no hijack intended)

post #24 of 50

I felt a pop both times when I did my ACL and meniscus

Originally Posted by pete View Post

ok, so here's a side question, noted by ChrisInSeattle, exercise for the ACL ... if torn or damaged .. what are good exercises?  (sorry, no hijack intended)


ChrisInSeattle hasn't posted in 5 years, so doubt he will mind the diversion.  Unlike the MCL, the ACL does not repair itself.  For a partial tear, the best exercises are probably those that strengthen all the surroundings muscles with the hamstring being particularly beneficial in terms of helping to reduce risk of ACL tear.  A lot of conditioning/fitness threads will give lots of specific exercises, but for the hamstrings, I have been doing several exercises that start with my knees at 90° while on my back and have my lift my mid-section.  Have been doing this with my feet up on my bed.  Similar exercise on a big ball where I start with the legs straight, raise the mid-section and roll the ball towards me.


If you do have a damaged ACL, it is probably worth a few sessions with an experienced PT who can give you a complete program and make sure you are doing the exercises correctly.  


post #25 of 50

Thanks MEfree30


durn dates .... I thought I read in other treads you can't do much as it's a tendon .. thanks.  I figure it's a bit o paranoia having fell on some mogels in the boat 2 seasons back.   I never learned mogels and in prior yrs, with their excessive powder followed my daughters into em .. that yr - 09-10, was quite dry and I sadly tried a  poorly executed turn with a twist to the back. 


I figure it was more a good strain as it sure hurt but I was pretty proud to ski down on Why Not and Right O Way on my right .... nice thing is the desk folk at my condo both had their ACL's done and brought me ice and Motrin ...


yes, I think i'll hit up some PT input and hopefully drop 30 lbs .... that alone should help.

post #26 of 50

I didn't tear my ACL, but my ACL tore a peanut sized chunk of bone off of my tibia (avulsion fracture).  Happened when I was 35, not skiing but....playing  beer league softball for cripes sake! (caught in a pickle between second and third, reversing direction and twisting/ducking to avoid a tag).  Didn't really hurt (at first), and I don't remember any loud noises, it just felt....wrong.  I collapsed and then when trying to walk off the field (or to the communal keg) I would take a few steps and it would just give out.  By the next morning it was the size of a large grapefruit and yup, it hurt.


Found out later that that type of injury is unusual for anyone over the age of say 12.  I either have very weak bones or very strong ligaments.  Luckily have had no problems since the surgery (must be all the milk).

post #27 of 50

Well, how timely is this post!  :)  I didn't feel or hear anything. I just tried to stand up and I had zero ability to support or keep my leg from buckling. its been just 48 hours now and I really don't have any significant swelling, I have been keeping it moving according to dr's orders but they had me doing exercises in the ER within 2 hours of the injury, The side of my knee is very sore today but it's already feeling a bit more stable. 

post #28 of 50

Ah Finndog,


I feel really bad given the early season of the mishap.  Keep info coming on the Bear Down post, or here, somewhere.  Hope all goes well.  from the other post it sounds as if you caught on a edge .. .rock maybe .. I know how different the resort looks early season and was surprised at the amounts of bare ground in spots 2 yrs back  ..


but back to topic, I do not recall any sound but definitely believe a pull or tear of some sort happened when i fell, it wasn't painful laying there, but upon getting up i could feel it and any toe out (i think) twist hurt.   Did it on Northern between Tower and Why Not (long green) ... which offered me a return path, I recall I could lightly ski on my injured left on a straight cat walk but had to definitely lift it on the turns ... small little nothing bumps ... just hiccups hurt ... so I certainly feel for anyone having done serious damage.

post #29 of 50

I just found out that I have a torn meniscus and a torn ACL. When I first injured my knee I was wrestling with my husband and just came down on it at the wrong angle. I could hear it pop but he didnt hear it. I sat on the floor for about 5 minutes because when I tried to get up it kind of felt like something was being cut off, you know that feeling when a body part falls asleep? It was like that combined with a mass amount of pressure on the inside of my right knee just below my knee cap. After a few days it started to feel better and I didnt even have a limp. Then it "popped" out again hurting worse and worse each time it popped out. Which it did at least once a week for two or three months after the intial injury. When I started to feel better I started to get more physically active, building up the muscles around it I couldn't comfortably jog but I could jog. I dont know how to explain the feeling when I jogged, it just felt wrong like it was a limit my knee shouldn't have been pushed too. I dont know if my knee actually started to heal of if mental I got familiar with the pain I'd get right before it popped out and I would limit myself. There would be times when I would be standing in heels ( I know not smart but I thought it was better I didnt know I had torn something) and the next thing I knew I'd be on the ground hardly no pain and confused as to how it happened I didnt even swell that much looking at my knee you cant see the swelling. I think that a lot of my pain is cause from the tear in my meniscus. It's hard to walk on when it does pop out of place and from what ive notice is that when it pops out when I have a brace on it hurts worse then without the brace, but just wearing the brace stablizes it and makes it less sore.

Also from what I've noticed is that the slower it pops out and then back in the more sore and painful it is.

post #30 of 50

Andie I'm guessing you have seen a doctor and had a scan etc to diagnose it all - if you haven't you need to asap!  As the more the knee gives way the more damage you can do to the rest of your knee which will make treatment and rehab trickier.  Find aorthopeadic consultant who sees alot of Sports Injuries and go from there.  But the more it gives way the more painful it will become as the joint gets looser and so displaces more.   I think!  it felt the same with mine when it was giving way.

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