Returning to Sports After ACL Surgery

Returning to Sports After ACL Surgery

For many active athletes, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury can stop them right in their tracks. If you’ve gone through or been told you need surgery for your ACL, you’re likely eager to know when you can return to your favorite sports.

ACL surgery recovery requires time and a careful post-operative routine, but by following a careful rehabilitation program guided by sports medicine specialist Thomas Rambacher, DPM, FACFAS, FAPWCA, you can rehabilitate your ACL and go on to do the sports you love again. 

Learn how Dr. Rambacher and the team at Podiatry Hotline Foot & Ankle, in Mission Viejo, California, help you return to sports after ACL surgery.

What is an ACL injury?

Your ACL is a ligament in the center of your knee. Injury to the ACL occurs when the ligament gets stretched, partially torn, or fully torn and can happen alongside injuries to other parts of your knee.

Anyone can get an ACL injury, but they’re especially common if you participate in sports that require high amounts of stopping and starting or pivoting. When you injure your ACL, you’re likely to hear a pop as it occurs and then experience swelling, pain, instability, and difficulty bearing weight on your knee.

ACL injury treatment

Some milder injuries and partial tears to the ACL can be managed non-surgically. If Dr. Rambacher determines your ACL doesn’t need surgical repair, he prescribes a program of rest and rehabilitative therapies.

Other times, especially if your ACL is fully torn, Dr. Rambacher recommends surgery. If you’re an athlete, you’re more likely to be able to make a full return to your sport after surgery than using conservative treatment methods.

ACL surgery is a reconstructive surgery that replaces your injured ACL with an alternative and similar tendon graft. Dr. Rambacher acquires the graft for a different part of your knee or from a donor.

Making a return to sports after getting ACL surgery

After surgery, Dr. Rambacher helps you carefully rehabilitate your knee to help it return to full strength so you can return to your active lifestyle. Returning to sports usually requires at least several months of initial rest and rehabilitation exercises.

Your rehabilitation starts immediately after surgery, when Dr. Rambacher gives you exercises to start doing right away to help your ACL recover.

The first few weeks after surgery, you move around using crutches as you make an initial recovery and swelling goes down. Within a few weeks, you should be able to fully extend your knee again, walk, and ride a stationary bicycle.

Once you regain initial mobility, Dr. Rambacher works with you to slowly regain range of motion, strength, and overall fitness in your knee. It’s important to follow Dr. Rambacher’s directions as doing too much, too soon puts you at high risk of reinjuring your ACL.

To determine your ACL’s readiness to return to activity, Dr. Rambacher performs a number of tests to check your recovery levels. After meeting the strength and flexibility criteria indicated on those tests, he gives you the approval to make your return to your active routine.

By following your rehabilitative routine and being patient, you have an excellent chance of returning back to sports after an ACL injury. For help with ACL surgery or rehabilitation, contact Podiatry Hotline today. 

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