Sports Rehabilitation Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear

bandaged post op knee

Sports rehabilitation for an anterior cruciate ligament repair (ACL) is a difficult process because it affects the knee. The knee joint is one of the most fragile structures in the human body.

An ACL tear is a devastating injury for athletes because of a long period of recovery and the possibility of setbacks following surgery.

For the most part, surgeons and physical therapists have created a timeline for the expected recovery from such an injury to the knee. Here we will explore the expected schedule and exercises associated with recovery from an ACL tear.

First Two Weeks

For the most part, the first two weeks of sports rehabilitation protocol following anterior cruciate ligament surgery is focused upon pain management, range of motion and reducing the swelling.

hands on post knee

It is highly doubtful that the patient will be ready to walk or stand without significant discomfort. The patient will spend most of the time with their knee elevated applying ice to reduce swelling. Physical therapy modalities are used to reduce swelling quickly and passive range of motion by the therapist accelerates the return of motion.

Weeks Two to Six

This phase of sports rehabilitation will focus upon aggressive range of motion, regain lost strength and establishing the ability to stand. With the reduction of swelling and pain. physical therapy is more intense.

Typically, you will be expected to walk again between the fourth and fifth week of your rehabilitation. The majority of physical therapists will advise you against using anything but the weight of your leg to improve flexion. Towards the end of this period of rehabilitation the physical therapist will guide the patient through progressive resistive exercises utilizing weights and equipment.

Six Weeks to Four Months

Unless the patient has suffered some form of set back or is not healing properly, this is the final stage of sports rehabilitation that still requires the guidance of a physical therapist. During this phase the patient is expected  to focus on normal activity.

The strengthening exercises will become more strenuous, to the point that the knee and leg should exhibit pre-injury degrees of strength.

PROM knee

In order to regain full usage, the patient will be prescribed low impact exercises such as swimming and bicycle. During this period higher impact exercises should be added using a treadmill. The visits to the physical therapist should become less frequent due to the patients self-motivation of their sports rehabilitation. This is largely based on progress and the patient’s age. Towards the end of the four months, it can be expected that the patient will be able to resume limited roles in their sport.

Beyond Six Months

The final portion of the sports rehabilitation for an anterior cruciate ligament injury is the athlete’s full return to the sport. After two months of playing limited roles in the sports, the athlete can completely resume their position unless they show signs of a setback.

Most individuals are advised to reintegrate themselves slowly while paying careful attention to the degrees of pain and soreness in the affected knee. However, it may take some athletes longer to feel completely comfortable playing contact sports such as football or soccer. On going conditioning is a must.

By one year after the injury, the athlete should be able to completely resume their former lifestyle.