Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) disruptions are common injuries that currently hold a fearsome reputation among athletes of all abilities and disciplines. Indeed, if the diagnosis is missed at first presentation, it is difficult to attribute ongoing instability and recurrent injury to an ACL tear. Classically, patients then often improve shortly before repeatedly reinjuring their knee. At some point, the knee may lock, necessitating an arthroscopic meniscectomy. Tragically, this then hastens the progression of joint arthrosis and the decline of the joint function. While the burden of responsibility does not lie solely with the junior doctor or the general practitioner, it is often at the first consultation that the natural history of this devastating injury is decided. The ability to recognise, institute early management and reassure patients with ACL tears about the future is an invaluable asset to the non-specialist junior doctor. Once diagnosed, the responsibility of advising and further counselling of patients with ACL injuries is best left to the orthopaedic knee specialist. Family practitioners and emergency room doctors should not feel pressured to offer advice on specialist areas such as return to sports without reconstruction or indeed the need for reconstruction. Indeed, decisions to return to sports with ACL-deficient knees have all too often led to disastrous reinjury events to the articular cartilage and/or the menisci.
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Competing interests None.
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