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Loud Pop in Knee Followed by Pain

What does it mean if I have a loud pop in the knee followed by pain?

You’re having a great time playing football with your friends. You run down the field and plant your foot to turn so the quarterback can throw you the ball. Then, it happens. A loud pop in your knee followed immediately by excruciating pain. 

This scenario is all too common for many amateur and professional athletes. The pop you hear and the pain you feel are likely caused by an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Researchers estimate that 200,000 ACL injuries occur in the U.S. annually, and such injuries become more likely due to specific risk factors. 

Why does an ACL injury cause a loud pop in the knee followed by pain?

The most common time that ACL injuries happen is when you’re stopping quickly or suddenly changing direction. These actions often take place during sports. Also, they cause a lot of pressure on the ACL. 

The sudden release of this pressure as the ACL tears causes the popping sensation. If violent enough, the tearing can lead to the audible popping sound you hear. The damage to the ligament tissue then sends pain signals out to the brain. 

What risk factors increase your chances of an ACL injury?

A loud pop followed by pain might be the first sign that you’re at risk of an ACL injury. However, many people who injure themselves this way were at risk beforehand. Some of the risk factors that are commonly associated with an ACL injury are: 

  • Being female — Medical studies show that ACL injuries are up to 9.7 times more likely in women. Researchers aren’t certain why women have ACL injuries more often. Hypotheses include differences in hormones, muscle strength and knee anatomy. 
  • Participation in specific sports — ACL injuries are more common for gymnasts, football players, soccer players, basketball players and downhill skiers. 
  • Lack of conditioning
  • Wearing improper footwear
  • Playing on artificial turf

SOL Physical Therapy can help treat your ACL injury

After that loud pop in the knee followed by pain, you’ll need help treating your ACL injury. Our team of therapy specialists at SOL Physical Therapy are primed to assist you. We offer complimentary screenings that can confirm you have an ACL injury. Our team can also build you a personalized treatment plan for your knee injury. You can even use our virtual care and at-home therapy services to get therapy from your own home, and you can use any of our services without a referral from your doctor. 

Are you ready to start getting our help with your injury? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an appointment. 

About the author

Sports + Orthopedic Leaders Physical Therapy & Performance Training serves the communities of Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Orinda, San Francisco and beyond. SOLPT’s award winning team of Physical Therapists, Performance Coaches and movement experts has helped thousands reach their rehabilitation and performance goals to move beyond pain. We're committed to helping anyone of any fitness level move effectively and more powerfully for a lifetime. We offer rehabilitation and performance services to all populations, with specialties in Sports Rehabilitation, Active Release Techniques, and Manual Therapy Techniques plus Personal and Small Group Training, Sport Clinics and Wellness Services.