ACL SURGERY RECOVERY FAQ
1. What is an ACL tear?
An ACL tear (or Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury) is one of the most common yet most troublesome injuries in sports. An ACL injury is a tear in one of the knee ligaments that joins the upper leg bone (femur) with the lower leg bone (tibia) which keeps the knee stable.
2. What causes an ACL tear?
ACL tears can happen for a number of reasons including changing direction too rapidly, stopping suddenly, a faulty landing from a jump or colliding with another athlete.
3. How do I know if I need ACL surgery?
Although some people are able to recover from an ACL tear without surgery with proper care from a Physical Therapist, most athletes opt for ACL surgery, which can get them back on their feet faster. Consult a physician following your injury and he or she will recommend the best course of action.
4. How do I prepare for ACL reconstruction surgery?
Be sure to find a good orthopedic surgeon who regularly performs a fair amount of ACL surgeries each month. Depending on your doctor’s recommendation, you may need to undergo Physical Therapy before surgery to restore range of motion. Your surgeon may advise to you stop taking blood thinning medications such as aspirin prior to surgery and will tell you when to stop eating the day before surgery. ACL surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, so you will likely be able to go home the same day.
5. What is the typical ACL surgery recovery time?
ACL surgery recovery times vary from patient to patient, however it usually takes between 6 and 9 months to fully recover. It is important that you consult your Physical Therapist who will guide you through the ACL surgery recovery process.
6. What will help speed ACL surgery recovery?
While rehabilitating from ACL surgery, patients can use several methods to help speed their recovery process. It is important to control pain and swelling after surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon will probably recommend cold therapy immediately following surgery. Cold therapy helps reduce pain and swelling, which plays a major role in ACL surgery recovery. Once cleared by your doctor to do so, it is highly effective to add compression therapy to cold, which helps reduce swelling.
Cold and compression are key ingredients of R.I.C.E. – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Using a cryotherapy device with active or intermittent compression such as PowerPlay during ACL surgery recovery can help ease pain and reduce inflammation. Intermittent compression works by pumping blood and oxygen up and out of the injury site. In addition to your cold compression therapy, resting and keeping your leg elevated will also aid in this process.
7. What exercises can I do while recovering from ACL surgery?
Your Physical Therapist will tell you when it is safe to start gentle exercise and recommend certain strengthening exercises to incorporate into your daily routine. You can expect a variety of range of motion exercises to get your mobility back to what it was prior to your ACL injury. Your PT will also recommend a series of stretches to continue at home. The types of recommended exercises will increase in activity level as time goes on, however you must be careful to not do too much too soon.
Eventually you will be able to ease into more intense exercises when your physician and PT clear you to do so. Swimming and cycling, for example, are great ways to increase your stamina, coordination and balance gradually, while being careful to not aggravate your knee or re-injure yourself.