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ACL Surgery Recovery Tips

physical therapist examining patient's knee

Here at Mark Miller, MD, we specialize in knee pain treatment. One of the most common knee injuries is a torn ACL. An ACL tear can be a devastating injury for anyone, especially athletes. While an ACL tear is an injury you can recover from, the process may require a considerable amount of medical treatment.

ACL injury treatment may include arthroscopic knee surgery, which will require the patient to follow rehabilitation exercises and receive other post-surgery physical therapy. Because of the length of time it takes to recuperate from an ACL injury, many athletes find themselves tempted to rush their way back to the field or court after sustaining an ACL tear.

What many ACL tear patients don’t realize is that even after a successful ACL tear surgery, the chances of reinjuring a previously torn ACL are high. In fact, one in five athletes returning after ACL reconstruction will face another ACL injury in the same knee. However, if you follow the proper recovery protocols, you can help prevent a retear and protect yourself from reinjuring your ACL.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From ACL Surgery?

One of the most important ACL reinjury prevention tips is to make sure your torn ACL has had the proper time to recover after surgery. This timeline can be different depending on the individual injured as well as the nature of the injury and surgery itself.

Most doctors will recommend no fewer than 9 months for recovery as the base time of return. Returning to a sport after an ACL tear is still a case-by-case basis of preparedness and decisions from the athlete, but taking the time you need to heal is invaluable when preventing ACL reinjury after surgery.

Post ACL Surgery Exercises

When recovering from ACL surgery, there are a number of exercises available to slowly build strength back up in the knee and other leg muscles. These protocols are an important step in preventing ACL reinjury.

As part of this restrengthening regimen, patients recovering from an ACL injury will undertake quadricep-focused training for the injured leg. Some of the exercises include squats, leg extensions, and front foot elevated lunges – all geared towards assisting in restrengthening the supportive muscles around the ACL. Having this strength in the quadricep will help take pressure off of the ACL once returning to action.

Ankle weakness is also tied to an increase in ACL reinjuries, which means ankle-focused training is also a key therapy and strengthening tool in preventing an ACL retear. Some of the exercises and therapies involved with improving ankle strength include calf and towel stretches, foot rolls, toe curls, and more. Many ACL tears occur because of a dangerous or incorrect landing while jumping or pivoting quickly, so building ankle strength can give you the base you need to prevent bad posture when landing, thus protecting your ACL further.

Finally, strengthening your hips is another key tactic in therapy to prevent reinjury. Similar to the ankle, hip strength contributes heavily to posture, as well as prevents leg contortions like overextensions that can lead to an ACL tear. You see poor hip strength as a common culprit for ACL tears in sports like football and is a leading cause of ACL tears in the NFL.

How To Avoid an ACL Tear in the Future

While strength training is a key component to prevent an ACL retear after returning to sports, one of the most helpful ways to care for your ACL post-surgery is to work on improving your balance. By using exercises and stretches from yoga or other balancing regiments, you can regain your range of motion, increase core strength, and have the stability you need to become active again and protect your injury.

During your recovery, you might also need to work on reestablishing neurological connections to your leg’s movement. Redeveloping these mental connections will take time, so it is important to take it slow and not become discouraged during the healing process if you find exercises or stretches that once came easily to you are more difficult to perform while recovering.

Similarly, it is vital to follow any specific instructions from your knee doctor. While many athletes will want to test limits on their range of motion and strength to get back in the game, attempting exercises or stretches too early can result in improper healing or reinjury.

ACL Recovery After Surgery in Chesterfield, MO

If you are suffering from an ACL tear, Mark Miller, MD is here to help. Dr. Mark Miller is the top orthopedic surgeon and ACL doctor in the St. Louis area. With years of experience in knee and arthroscopic surgery, Dr. Miller can perform your surgery and help you on the road to recovery. With the latest ACL reconstruction techniques and expertise, you will receive the best care possible.

Schedule a consultation today!