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What Is the Difference Between an ACL Tear and an ACL Sprain?

What Is the Difference Between an ACL Tear and an ACL Sprain?

Even if you don’t play sports, you’ve likely heard of the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. For athletes, an ACL injury could end a season, and, in severe cases, a career. ACL injuries are usually the result of a botched play, improper movement, or overextended range of motion while jumping, twisting, or running.

While an ACL injury can be terrifying, it’s important to note that there are varying levels to such an injury. From tears to sprains, it’s important to understand the difference between ACL injuries to assess the best treatment and plan your recovery. Here are a few ways to know whether you have an ACL tear or an ACL sprain.

How to Tell an ACL Tear from an ACL Sprain?

An ACL injury is usually most common in high-movement, high-contact sports like basketball, football, or soccer, but they can also occur in everyday life and in no-contact sports like tennis and running.

The difference in ACL injuries includes:

  • ACL Tears – As the name implies, an ACL tear involves is when the ligament is torn. This can either be a partial or full tear. With an ACL tear you will feel severe pain, rapid swelling, frequent popping noises in your knee, and a loss of range of motion.
  • ACL Sprains – This occurs when excessive force or a sudden movement causes the ligament to rupture. ACL sprains are painful and graded on their severity with grades of 1–3. A grade 1 sprain is the least severe, while a grade 3 is a complete rupture.

Both types of ACL injuries, sprains and tears, can be debilitating and, therefore, require professional orthopaedic treatment to properly heal and recover.

Advanced ACL Tear and Sprain Treatment

If you play a sport that involves sudden stops, jumps, and directional changes, an ACL injury is highly possible. Should anything happen, know that the knee injury treatments available from the team of orthopaedic specialists and physicians at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine are available to help you get back into winning shape.

At Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine, we’re proud to play a role in helping people regain mobility and get back to their daily routines free of pain. If you’ve experienced an ACL tear or sprain or another type of knee injury or orthopaedic ailment, our team is here to help. To get back on your feet and in the game, please request an appointment online or give us a call today at 904-825-0540.


Sina Kasraeian, MD 
Board Certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and has extensive training in arthroscopy and sports medicine reconstructive procedures.


Dr. McClone - Sports medicine doctor St. AugustineCasey McClone, MD
Board Certifications in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. Dr. McClone specializes in treating musculoskeletal pain for patients of all ages with ultra-sound guided injections.