The results of nonoperative treatment of 72 patients with complete anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, documented by examination under anesthesia and arthroscopy, were evaluated. All patients had an acute injury with hemarthrosis in a previously normal knee. Patients having meniscal repair were excluded as were those with collateral or posterior cruciate ligament tears or associated fractures. Treatment in all cases consisted of a standard protocol of early rehabilitation and bracing. A detailed rating of symptoms and function was performed at an average of 38 months postinjury (range, eight to 84 months). Overall results were 11% excellent, 20% good, 15% fair, and 54% poor. Thirty-five percent had ACL reconstruction during the follow-up period. Results indicate that young adults who return to a vocation requiring strenuous physical activity frequently can expect unsatisfactory results after nonoperative treatment of an acute complete tear of the ACL.