Training Time: ACL injuries


Training Time with Max Benton

Max Benton is the Cavaliers Athletic Trainer and tends to the immediate medical needs of the team’s players. Most of his duties center around preventative medicine, treatment, and rehabilitation.

This information should not be used as diagnosis of a particular condition and is intended only to be informative. If you are experiencing symptoms of any kind, please consult a doctor.


From the rec leagues to the pros, an ACL injury can end a season and put an athlete on the long road to recovery. In any sports, where changing direction while moving is important, problems with an ACL are hard to overcome.


To begin, the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, provides stability for sports, such as basketball, tennis, or skiing where an athlete uses rotational movement (changing directions while moving). In fact, it provides 90% of stability to the knee joint. It is the smallest of the four main ligaments in the knee, but it is the main stabilizer for rotational movement. Ligaments, like the ACL, connect bone-to-bone, and the ACL connects the femur (thighbone) with the tibia (shinbone). Without the ACL, the knee would be unstable and would dislocate during activities with any amount of twisting.


Generally, quick directional changes while running cause most ACL injuries. The most common way an ACL tear or injury can occur is a combination of a sudden stopping motion on the leg, while the knee twists. A planted foot remains stationary while the body rotates towards the opposite side of the body In those circumstances where quick directional changes are made, the shinbone and thighbone rotate too far in opposite directions or the knee bends forward.

Other ways the ACL can be injured is by a direct blow to the leg (from a low tackle, for instance) or sudden deceleration.

There are three grades of severity of an ACL injury:

  • Grade 1--the ligament is stretched, but not torn
  • Grade 2--the ACL is partially torn
  • Grade 3--the ACL is completely torn, the knee is unstable and feels "loose”


    Symptoms of an ACL injury can vary greatly. You may experience one or more of the following:

  • An audible pop at the time of injury
  • Knee feels unstable
  • Swelling (a lot of swelling occurs immediately, usually within two hours)
  • Pain in the knee
  • Bruising of the knee
  • Stiffness


  • You will want to see your doctor right away: an ACL injury is a serious one that may require surgery.

  • If you do require ACL reconstruction surgery, 90% to 95% of athletes can expect to return to full sports participation within six months.

  • Following an ACL rupture, athletes today have more than a 90% chance of returning to their pre-injury level of sports participation and fitness.

  • Another good piece of advice to follow is the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), which is usually a good idea to follow for two to three days following an injury.

  • It’s hard to prevent an ACL injury, aside from abstaining from participation in sports that require directional change, such as basketball, football, skiing. Cleats are designed to give football players more traction when changing directions, and taking smaller steps on turf may also help reduce the chances of an injury.