The Proper Steps to Rehab a Torn ACL
The anterior cruciate ligament runs straight down the knee and stops the tibia bone from coming out of the femur. The ACL also allows your knee to rotate and if you participate in sports like basketball, football or soccer, you are more likely to injure your ACL.
Following an injury to your ACL, you've got a lot of questions: What will the surgery be like? How long until I get better? And, what does rehab consist of?
A surgeon will repair your injured ACL by suturing it back together, and your rehabilitation actually starts right in the recovery room where you will be given a set of gentle exercises to perform.
While you will leave the hospital or outpatient surgery center on crutches, you shouldn't be using them for long. Weight is gradually increased on the knee as you can tolerate it. Normally, patients recovering from ACL surgery are free of crutches within seven to 10 days of the procedure. However, if your ACL surgery includes a meniscal repair or repair of an additional ligament, you may be using crutches for a few more weeks.
Every ACL patient, their surgeon, and physical therapist has the same goal after surgical repairs have been made: To return the patient to normal functioning in the shortest amount of time possible while not further damaging the repaired knee.
How is this goal accomplished? In the first two weeks following surgery, your rehab will focus on getting the swelling in the knee to go down while recovering knee flexion. You'll do this by elevating and icing your leg and by spending time on a stationary bike. During this period, your rehab will also center on increasing the function of your quadriceps muscles with a knee flexion goal of 90 percent.
In weeks three to six of rehabilitation, the emphasis is on strength and agility building. You'll lift weights and use sports cords to promote a full range of motion in your knee. You will also log time on the treadmill, step machine, and elliptical trainer in order to improve your endurance.
In weeks six to 12, rehab centers on improving your confidence in your repaired ACL as you get psychologically prepared to return to playing your favorite sport. During this time, you'll begin jogging and eventually do straight-ahead running. some doctors will even prescribe a brace at this point to help increase your confidence.